Wednesday, 8 September 2010

God Slot IV - A Sweet and Happy New Year to All

My latest Radio 2 offering.

At 43:50 in - or, for good old fashioned readers …

Today from Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of New London Masorti Synagogue

"This is the Jewish season for atonement.

Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – begins this evening and is followed by ten days leading up to Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Themes of atonement fill our liturgy and hopefully our hearts. And the absolute key to atonement in the Jewish tradition is penitence. Without penitence we are not worthy recipients of atonement.

My tradition takes penitence tremendously seriously. Penitence involves having to right any loss caused, having to apologise – and, and this is the really difficult piece – having to change the desire to never do such a thing again. It is this internal immeasurable aspect that’s so important, penitence involves having to change your desire to never do such a thing again.

There is, in the Jewish tradition, a particular and vivid example of penitence. Say there is a man who once sinned with a woman. Then he finds himself alone with her again, in the same circumstance where once he sinned. And he’s still aroused by her and he’s not worried about anyone finding out if he were to sin again. If, despite all the temptation, such a person holds themselves back, that is penitence.

It’s the same woman, he feels the same way about her, they are in the same situation they were in before. Everything about the encounter is the same, apart from the will of the man. The point of the story is that the man made the change himself. He sat himself down and made a decision about how he wanted to live his life.

He still hungers after the woman, but whereas he previously was led by his desires he is now in control of them. The man has grasped the responsibility for his own life.

An appeal to heavens can help. A belief in a God of grace, quick to forgive, is a bonus – for those of us who so believe. But there is no substitute for taking hold of those of our desires that make us less than we could be, and bending those deviant desires to our will – rather than allowing them to bend us.

The traditional Jewish greeting, at this time of year, is to wish for a sweet New Year. Whether we are celebrating a new year or not, may we all enjoy great sweetness".



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