Sunday, September 20, 2020
Second Day of Tishrei 5781
Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
Today is the second day of Rosh Hashanah. In Orthodox and Conservative communities this year, the sounding of the shofar and the reciting of Avinu Malkeinu are postponed until today because the first day of Rosh Hashanah fell on Shabbat.
We are now in the final stretch of the journey toward t’shuvah. Yom Kippur is our deadline. It is now just nine days away. We have just nine days to ask the people we have hurt to forgive us. We have just nine days to ask God for forgiveness, too. In the days before Rosh Hashanah, we discussed in detail how we apologize to the people we have hurt. That step is indispensable. God is not interested in hearing our pleas for forgiveness until we have asked forgiveness from the people we have hurt.
But, once we have apologized to those people, how are we supposed to apologize to God? In the twelfth century, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as the Rambam, offered this suggested prayer to ask for God’s forgiveness:
Please, God, I have sinned, I have erred, I have transgressed before You. I have done thus-and-such [state the specific things for which you seek forgiveness]. I am remorseful and ashamed of my actions and I will never do this again. (Hilchot T’shuvah 1:1)
The Rambam says that this is the essence of confession to God. While it is good to expand upon these words, saying this is sufficient as long as it is said out loud and with sincerity. You do not need to wait until Yom Kippur to say it. You do not need to say it in a synagogue. You can make your apologies to God any time and anywhere you wish. Yom Kippur services are just the deadline, the last chance to get it done.
Why not do it now?
Practice for this day:
Recite the Rambam’s prayer for forgiveness from God. Be as specific as you can in stating the things for which you seek forgiveness. You can do this as often as you wish. It does not need to be perfect. Each time, you may find that you have a clearer sense of the actions you regret and a clearer sense of the forgiveness you want to achieve. Write down some thoughts about what you find out from doing this.