Tag Archives: rabbi lavey derby

At-One-Ment: Returning To Ourselves

by on September 21, 2015

Yom Kippur (Hebrew for the “Day of Atonement”) is said to be the most solemn and introspective day of the Jewish calendar. It is the culmination of a ten-day period of reflection, beginning with Rosh Hashanah. During these ten days we are invited to engage in a fearless moral inventory to assess the state of our souls and to reset our moral compasses.

These ten days are traditionally the time to approach people we have hurt, if we have not done so previously, ask for their forgiveness, and make amends where possible. It is a fundamental teaching that Yom Kippur does not provide forgiveness for hurts that we caused other people; forgiveness can only come from those we have offended. This process of self reflection and asking for forgiveness is known as “repentance” and “atonement.” The act of atonement makes the claim that as human beings we are able to change and improve ourselves. On Yom Kippur we strive to improve our relationships both with other human beings and with God.

If we were to think of the Day of Atonement as the Day of At-One-Ment, which is the true derivation of the word, we might encounter a deeper truth. Rather than thinking of sin as an affront to the divine being “out there,” we might understand that sin is in fact a sickness of the soul, “in here.” It is the experience of our own brokenness, a separation from our deepest selves and our deepest truth, and from the “still, small voice” that whispers to us that our essence is pure and good and whole, and invites us to return to our truest selves. This is teshuvah in the truest sense: the longing to change, the effort to heal ourselves, a reuniting with our self and returning to wholeness (a word related to “holiness”).

To experience Yom Kippur as the Day of At-One-Ment, we require spacious silence in which to contemplate the truth of our own souls and navigate the journey of return. As philosopher and spiritual mentor Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes, At-One-Ment “ … is an endeavor to break away from the past and reach a higher level. However, notwithstanding the complexity and the deeply felt difficulties involved, there is a clear simplicity in the elemental point that is the point of the turning.” It is, finally, a joyous experience, the experience of discovering again one’s true self and knowing wholeness.

Contributor Rabbi Lavey Derby is the PJCC’s Director of Jewish Life.



Let It Go! The Benefit of Forgiveness

by on September 8, 2015

shofar rosh hashanah yom kippur

Central to the understanding of the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is the simple yet fundamental belief that people can change. We need not be stuck in habitual conditioned behaviors. We need not repeat the same behaviors that are hurtful to ourselves or to others over and over again. We are capable of change and growth. The great mystic and sage Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev taught that it is incumbent upon each individual to believe that with the next breath we can become new beings. The possibility of personal renewal is the great mystery of being human.

The blowing of the shofar – the ram’s horn – is the climax of the High Holiday ritual. The sound of the shofar is meant to cut through our web of routine, rationalization and conditioning, to wake us up to our true nature, which is goodness, love and compassion, and to urge us to leave behind behaviors and actions that cause suffering to ourselves or to others.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us the personal and communal spiritual task of teshuvah – repentance. Repentance is the self-aware practice of assessing our deeds and our spiritual condition. To participate in the practice of repentance requires a willingness to engage in a courageous moral inventory, to ask for and give forgiveness and to make amends where possible. Repentance is achieved when we recognize and regret our hurtful behavior; we discontinue the behavior and determine not to repeat that behavior in the future. Repentance also requires asking forgiveness from those we have hurt. While we ask others for forgiveness, it is also important that we find a way to forgive ourselves. We are, after all, merely human.

While asking for forgiveness can be hard, offering forgiveness to others can be much more difficult. Sometimes we feel so hurt by others that the possibility of our forgiveness seems impossible. We simply can’t let go of the hurt and the anger. We hold on to our hurt as if it were a prize, a badge of honor. We have no desire to be in relationship with the person who has hurt us. Or, we feel that to forgive that person would be to condone what they did to us.

What we fail to understand is that as we hold on to our hurts and wounds for dear life, all we accomplish is to prolong the hurt. It has been said that holding on to our anger at the person who hurt us, is akin to holding on to a burning coal: the only person who gets burned is us.

Forgiveness does not require us to trust the person who hurt us or to re-establish a close relationship with her, nor does it mean we condone what was done to us. It simply means that we put down our anger and let go of it. As my teacher and friend Sylvia Boorstein likes to say, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better yesterday.” We cannot change what happened, but we can change our attitude about what happened. We don’t need to bear the painful burden of it forever.

Receiving forgiveness from others is a relief; asking forgiveness of others is an act of grace. Either way, forgiveness is a miraculous experience. Without the possibility of forgiveness we would live with constant despair. The promise of the High Holidays is that we can live instead with profound hope.

May this New Year bring us all health, happiness and abundant hope.



Don’t Let Go Of Hope

by on July 24, 2014


As the violence in Israel and Gaza continues to escalate and claims more victims, the pain I feel is palpable.

My heart aches for the IDF soldiers killed in action, and for the Israeli civilians who suffer an endless torrent of rockets fired at their homes and their children. My heart aches as well for the innocent civilians of Gaza who are killed or wounded, caught as they are in a deepening web of warfare. My guess is that many of you feel this same way. My guess is, too, that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians share the common wish that their children grow up to thrive in the sunshine, without fear of rocket and mortar fire. At the very least, I need to believe that.

And yet, I and so many others are falling into a malaise of hopelessness. In the words of Israeli Continue reading

Mindfulness–What Is It & Why Do I Care?

by on March 24, 2014


Ok, now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine. Mindfulness meditation, that is. Mindfulness is everywhere! Newspapers and magazines carry stories on the benefits of mindfulness; medical journals report on the latest research about mindfulness; businesses have mindfulness programs to help combat stress and to increase creativity and productivity; schools have begun to introduce mindfulness meditation to students and mindfulness is even taught is preschools; there are classes in mindful parenting; even commercials refer to mindfulness.

What’s this all about? Why has mindfulness suddenly become a cultural icon?

Continue reading

Foodie-ism & Meditation

by on January 15, 2014


Dear PJCC Friends and Fans,

A hearty welcome to our inaugural PJCC blog issue. We created this digital publication to serve your needs and interests. Our goal is to help you be better informed, educated, and entertained for your greatest health and wellness.

You can count on receiving blog content that includes everything from raising inquisitive, confident children, to caring for your personal wellness, to experiencing the arts and exploring contemporary Jewish themes. We will sprinkle in fun along the way as we know that lightness is a key ingredient for a happy heart and a healthy community. Continue reading