The Ducks Ate My Sins

My friend Ilene sent me an interesting text this morning. She said “the ducks ate my sins.”

Huh?

Then she said she was heading into the woods for the Jewish New Year today.

What?

Ilene edits my blogs. She is very smart. I, on the other hand, have a spelling and grammar impediment.

When she told me about her family today, I said she had to write her own story.

Here is what she wrote…

Years ago, I heard a Rabbi speak about how long it would take someone who doesn’t know you to realize you were Jewish. Unless they knew I was Jewish, it would take most people a while to know that about me. I am not religious and never go to synagogue. However, I am spiritual. Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a 10-day period of reflection leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I’m probably oversimplifying it, but you are supposed to reflect on the kind of person you have been throughout the year. What have you done well? Have you done everything you can do to be a good person? Who have you wronged? This period provides the opportunity to take stock of yourself, acknowledge the mistakes you have made throughout the past year, and think about how to be a better human. You are supposed to ask for forgiveness. Like actually tell people you are sorry and ask them to forgive you.

Two years ago, my sister decided she wanted her children to recognize the holiday is important even if they do not attend services. She created a service and leads it out in the woods. She prepared an abbreviated service and instructed us to think about the past year with meaningful questions.

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Is there something you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

That is a big piece of her Rosh Hashanah service. Another part of the actual holiday is the symbolic act of “throwing away your sins.” You are supposed to go to a body of water and throw in pieces of bread to represent the sins.  A lot of ducks were well fed this afternoon! For me, it is about more than just sins. It is about throwing out the negative baggage we all carry around with us – fear, jealousy, stubbornness, anger, competitiveness – feelings we may have needed at one point, but are ready to let go of now. Get rid of the negative emotions to make room for the positive energy necessary for the new year. Clean slate.

The final part of our service today was to read the letters we wrote to ourselves last year during Yom Kippur. We all wrote letters about the kind of people we hoped to be in the coming year. As we opened our letters today, I was ecstatic to see how well I did with my goals. I am going to spend the next 10 days celebrating that, thinking about what I can do better for next year, and asking people I know to forgive me.

Ilene