Campus Ministry and the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality have teamed up to offer an examen for our community each week. This invitation is an opportunity to go deeper into a shared text and consider how our mission and Jesuit values guide our work together here at Fairfield and beyond. Each week, a different member of the Campus Ministry or Murphy Center staff will provide a text for us. Video of the reflection can be found on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
From Rabbi James Prosnit, Jewish Chaplain
An Examen during this sacred period in the Jewish Calendar
It is an honor to be able to offer this week’s Examen from the standpoint of my Jewish Faith. As many of you know this is the holiest time of year in the Hebrew calendar. We call this period the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. It’s a ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (which began last Friday night) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (which concludes these days next Monday).
While reflection and repentance are encouraged at all times, it is during this period that the urging is greatest. The Shofar, a ram’s horn, sounds as the New Year begins and serves as an alarm clock awakening us to the possibilities that await. This is a time of reverie not revelry.
A central teaching is that on Rosh Hashanah the Gates of Heaven open, only to close on Yom Kippur. During these ten days we have the chance to consider the fabric of our lives. We assess the past year and consider the gap between who we are, and what in our higher moments we know we can be. Human frailty is a given. But during these days if we are committed to an honest appraisal, in Hebrew we call that chesbon Hanefesh, (literally an “accounting of the soul”), God will accept our prayers and grant forgiveness.
One of my favorite teachings is that even before the first human being was created, God established Yom Kippur as a day of repentance. In other words, God knew that these earthlings would have flaws, so God saw the need to create a day and I time when we could reflect on our behaviors, seek forgiveness and be granted a fresh start. Of course, we are also taught that these days provide forgiveness for transgressions in our relationship with God. If we’ve wronged someone specifically, we’d better take that up with that person, before we turn our attention to the Divine.
So in the spirit of an Examen some words adapted from Mishkan Hanefesh, the High Holy Day Prayer Book published by the CCAR (p.16)
Here I am
one soul within this prayer community
I bring my own concerns and yearning
hoping they will find expression in the time-hallowed words of my people
cherished by generations.
Who am I? How shall I live? Where have I fallen short or failed?
These days I take up the challenge of the Days of Awe:
chesbon hanefesh – searching examination of my life,
a moral inventor of my deed, words, thoughts.
During this period, let me face the truth about myself and listen to Your still small
voice. Taking comfort in your promise that I am free to change,
released from staleness and routine,
let me know the joy of beginning again.
So some questions for us to consider:
What truly matters to me? What makes me feel that my life is significant?
Am I too often wasting my most precious possession the minutes, the hours, the days of my life?
Have I been slow to anger? Quick to forgive? What would those who love me say?
Where do I find moments of sweetness and beauty?
As a New Year begins where shall I devote my best energies?
How can I bring more goodness to the lives of other?
And may I conclude with a teaching from someone who has been on our mind a lot these past few days. From Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, and have a sense of humor.
Good advice all around.
Shanah Tovah! May the year 5781 be a better year than the last – and a year of blessing for all.