Yom Kippur

Sep 17, 2017Torah Commentary

We greet one another before Yom Kippur with the wish: G’mar Chatimah Tovah – גמר חתימה טובה — which means: A good final sealing, or in proper English: May your inscription in the Book of Life be a good inscription, one with staying power.

The essence of this greeting, of course, is to wish others well. And that’s great, because who doesn’t need a little mazal right now? Let’s face it — despite our best laid plans, we do not know what the next year will really be like. We hope for the best: that we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labors, that our loved ones are safe and happy, that our community is a place of sanctity, beauty, and freedom. My wish for everyone in this congregation is that we all experience this in the coming year. But it is inevitable that many amongst us of us will have to deal with pain, and suffer losses. And not one of us knows where and when those will come upon us.

It is precisely because of this that we need to show compassion to one another.

This morning I did just the opposite of that. I got up early and fired off a letter to a favorite cousin who has been behaving in hurtful ways. But I didn’t send the letter (although I am still contemplating sending it). I did not send it because while I know how my cousin’s behavior has affected me, I probably don’t know the whole story from her side, all the reasons she has been acting in the ways she has. So I checked myself, and instead, planned how to have that conversation with her.

Compassion can be best demonstrated when we show faith in those around us. We really don’t know all the reasons our beloved friend couldn’t make it to the event that was important to us. We probably are not aware that our neighbor has a family member who is ill. We might not have discovered that those individuals upon whom we rely at work are struggling with their own challenges, and that those challenges are beyond anything we can imagine.

We are all doing the best that we can. We are all operating according to our most sincere beliefs. We are all putting forth the maximum energy we have – even if it is just to show up.

And that is why this greeting of the season is so marvelous. Because when we say it, we give another person the benefit of the doubt. In saying “G’mar Chatimah Tovah,” we are saying that of course your name is in the book you want it to be in. And may that inscription be indelibly etched into the heart of the Divine Presence.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah.

Written for and presented at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in Los Angeles, California.