On the Right Path

The Fellowship  |  September 28, 2022

Rabbi Eckstein and Yael Eckstein walk path in Jerusalem, 2017
(Photo: Olivier Fitoussi)

The Jewish people are currently observing the holiest time of year, the High Holy Days. And as we all prepare our hearts to repent and return to God, this message from our beloved founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory — his final Yom Kippur message — will surely be a blessed assurance of our loving God’s shalom, peace.

Every day, we face so many challenges. Modern life is complicated, and navigating it requires much physical, mental, and spiritual effort. Working, paying bills, accomplishing difficult but essential tasks… none of us are free from any of these concerns.

But what is the most difficult thing for us to do? Perhaps it is to ask forgiveness, in a true spirit of humility and repentance, from those we have wronged. This simple act seems to go against the deep sense of pride that is woven into our human nature.

But it is exactly this task that is set before the Jewish people on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur marks the conclusion of the High Holy Days and is the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar. On Yom Kippur, Jews are to contemplate their sins and reconcile themselves to both God and man through repentance and prayer. We refrain from work as well as food and drink, and spend most of the day in synagogue.

In Judaism, repentance means not just a change of heart, but a change of behavior. Psalm 34:14 makes this clear: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Changing our life patterns is a twofold motion — turning from bad toward good. When we do both of these things, we are shaped for the better and honor God.

Repentance not only puts us on the right path, it brings us to a fuller understanding of the nature of God. It reminds us that we worship a holy God who demands our holiness. When we fall short of that standard, we must repent.

Yom Kippur is a specifically Jewish observance, but the principle underlying it applies to all people of faith. My friends, today let us open our hearts to God, and to our neighbor, in a true spirit of humility and repentance. Then, we will experience the renewal that comes from knowing that we have turned toward the good and have truly pursued peace.