Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflections on the High Holidays

Corresponding vide can be found at:

9/22/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:45 pm (et).
9/22/2011 12:51 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:51 pm (et).
9/22/2011 12:54 pm (et) Megan E: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:54 pm (et).
9/22/2011 12:57 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:57 pm (et).
9/22/2011 12:57 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:57 pm (et).
9/22/2011 12:58 pm (et) sheaya: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 12:58 pm (et).
9/22/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
9/22/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Reflections on the High Holidays.’ The reflection is from Mr. Simeon Kriesberg, At-Large Member of IFC’s Board.
9/22/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
9/22/2011 1:00 pm (et) LauraG: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 1:00 pm (et).
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9/22/2011 1:01 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: logs in on 9/22/2011 1:01 pm (et).
9/22/2011 1:06 pm (et) arc4justice: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 1:06 pm (et).
9/22/2011 1:10 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you find any commonalities between your experience of the high holidays with the other traditions?
9/22/2011 1:13 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Susan, do you mean traditions of religions other than Judaism?
9/22/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: excellent presentation!
9/22/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Simeon, are you a reform, conservative or orthodox Jew?
9/22/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, like Islam and Ramadan?
9/22/2011 1:15 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Laura, I am a Reform Jew.
9/22/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Why is the Jewish New Year observed at the start of the SEVENTH month of the Hebrew year? (it is my understanding that Passover comes in the first month (Lev 23)
9/22/2011 1:16 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Susan, I cannot speak with authority on Ramadan, of course, but certainly one commonality is that Yom Kippur is a day of fasting from sundown to sundown, and fasting is also an important element of the observance of Ramadan.
9/22/2011 1:17 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Simeon, excellent as always! Since not all Jews will be in synagogue for the high holiday services, please share where you will be and why you've chosen to be part of a synagogue.
9/22/2011 1:17 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Have you ever had a discussion on the similarities/differences with same Muslims about Ramadan, but I guess even Catholics and the fast days of Lent? Do you think it would make a good dialogue?
9/22/2011 1:18 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: You are right, Laura, the Jewish New Year does not begin on the first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, which may seem odd to those of us familiar with the celebration of the secular New Year on January 1. My understanding is that the Jewish New Year was set to occur after the harvest, perhaps so that there would be less conflict with the agricultural life of the people.
9/22/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan - excellent idea for a dialogue - since fasting is such a common practice across so many different relgions
9/22/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: My theory is that just as the seventh DAY of the week is a holy day, so too the seventh month of the year
9/22/2011 1:20 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Years ago I had a student who held some apparent disdane for Judaism (based, I believe, on exaggerated stereotyping and insufficient understanding). He argued that Yom Kippur allows Jews to erase any vows made in the previous year. What is the real story behind this idea (I have a theory but would like your imput, Simeon)
9/22/2011 1:20 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Thanks, Clark, for your very good question. Jewish worship is both individual and communal. On Yom Kippur, for example, we pray individually for forgiveness but we also pray communally for the ways in which we have fallen short as a people. Therefore, I find it especially important to be in a place of worship where I can pray as an individual but also as a member of the larger Jewish people.
9/22/2011 1:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, I mean I can see some similarities, but I feel like even exploring the differences would be so interesting
9/22/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Simeon says that it is about turning yourself whereas as a Catholic I fast do that I may turn with God through the suffering of Jesus
9/22/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Defintiely speaks to a different anthropology
9/22/2011 1:22 pm (et) Moderator: arc4justice said: Thank you so much for this excellent explanation of the Jewish High Holidays! I'm curious to know if there are specific contemplative tools you use for self-reflection. In the Christian tradition of which I am a part, we practice centering prayer, a form of meditation on a sacred word.
9/22/2011 1:22 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Interestingly, the IFC has held interfaith dialogues on the topic of fasting. That particular ritual practice is common among many faiths.
9/22/2011 1:22 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: fasting clearly moves our focus away from our physical sustanence as we place more focus on our spiritual sustanance
9/22/2011 1:23 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Laura, it can definitely be a bridge I feel, the spiritual dimension certainly emphasizes the unity of humanity and what is beyond
9/22/2011 1:25 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Simeon, what is your recollection of observing the High Holidays as a child? Having been raised reform Jewish I recall these services as very long and boring for a child to sit through.
9/22/2011 1:26 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Laura, your former student's view that Yom Kippur allows Jews to erase any vows made in the previous year is probably a misunderstanding of a prayer that is said at the beginning of Yom Kippur called the Kol Nidre. That prayer essentially asks God for forgiveness and release of vows that we may have made in the past year under duress. Traditionally, the Kol Nidre is considered a response to those periods of history during which Jews were forced to convert to other faiths and to declare their belief in other faiths. The Kol Nidre prayer was an attempt to give Jews a sense that they are forgiven for making vows of that kind under such oppressive circumstances. I can assure you that the Kol Nidre is never interpreted by Jews to mean that commitments that we have made under ordinary circumstances are rescinded.
9/22/2011 1:27 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: 'under duress' - that's the key. Thank you for explaining
9/22/2011 1:27 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: As a member of the IFC do you find that this is particularly a time to work with other faiths? Is that part of your orientation when you say you turn towards God?
9/22/2011 1:28 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Thank you, arc4justice, for your interesting question about contemplative tools. I'm sure you would receive a wide range of answers from different Jews, but for me the practice of reading prayers, reflections, and scriptural passages in a quiet setting can be very helpful.
9/22/2011 1:31 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Anyone know if tehre is the same response from non-Jews to fast with them, I had heard of some non-Muslims fasting for Ramadan?
9/22/2011 1:31 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I've sat through Kol Nidre before, it is a beautiful service, but the fast itself seems quite strenuous...
9/22/2011 1:31 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Laura, certainly my young children often have the same reaction to religious services as you recall from your childhood! At my synagogue there are a variety of services offered, some for adults, some for families with children, some for singles, some for very young children, so that practics and explanations can be tailored to the particular congregation. Even among adults, of course, different approaches to worship appeal to different people, and one of the keys to synagogue affiliation, I think, is finding a place of worship that meets your spiritual needs.
9/22/2011 1:33 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I do still enjoy hearing the sound of the shofar and the Kol Nidre (though I no longer identify as 'Jewish'
9/22/2011 1:35 pm (et) Moderator: arc4justice said: What evidence do you see in your own community (synagogue, etc.) of how personal transformation can lead to social change?
9/22/2011 1:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: That sentiment resonantes greatly with me. The renewal of Catholic moral theology is focusing on virtue ethics, all about fostering the virtues within yourself so that they may come forth in action
9/22/2011 1:38 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Susan, thank you for your question about whether this is particularly a time to work with other faiths. I certainly believe that to be true: the world today is fraught with so much divisiveness, and I believe that if people of faith can celebrate religious diversity and demonstrate respect and openness to the traditions of other faith communities, we can be a transformative force. One of the scriptural readings on the High Holidays is the Book of Jonah, who you may recall was called by God to perform a task and who instead attempted to flee from God. The story says that when Jonah boarded a boat to escape God, God caused the waters to become so turbulent that the boat was about to sink. Jonah told the oarsmen to throw him overboard because he was the cause of the turbulence, but (and this is to me a telling part of the story) the oarsmen refused and kept rowing. The story says that these oarsmen were not Jews, and that part of the story has always impressed upon me the responsibility that each of us has for the stranger, for the people who are not of our own faith. Having that reminder every High Holiday season is very meaningful to me.
9/22/2011 1:38 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Or Rahner's fundamental choice...
9/22/2011 1:43 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Thank you for your question about personal transformation and social change, arc4justice. I think that social change is difficult without individual change. Unless we feel the urgency for making a personal effort toward social change, we end up leaving the responsibility to others, and I don't think that is a morally defensible choice.
9/22/2011 1:43 pm (et) Moderator: arc4justice said: If there was one thing you'd like to see diverse faith communities come together around to transform our local community, what would it be?
9/22/2011 1:44 pm (et) darrow kirkpatrick: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/22/2011 1:44 pm (et).
9/22/2011 1:46 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You talk about having to ask others for forgiveness during this time, is it also a time for the Jewish people to forgive? I guess what I mean is this the time for both sides to bury the hatchet?
9/22/2011 1:46 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: One example is an IFC policy statement that the IFC Board just issued that urges greater control by gun dealers with respect to the people, particularly children, to whom guns are sold, and which then contribute to the violence that is so destructive in our local community. Another area of common faith concern might be the effect of budgetary constraints on many programs of importance to people in need.
9/22/2011 1:47 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It could act as a good jumpstart to relations between traditions
9/22/2011 1:47 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Susan, I'm not quite sure which hatchet you suggest be buried, but certainly the High Holidays are a time for asking forgiveness and for granting forgiveness.
9/22/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan, as a Catholic, is offering forgiveness as much as part of your confessional practice as seeking forgiveness? (interesting concept - to give what we seek to get)
9/22/2011 1:49 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You know, its a tricky subject. We of course ask that our trespasses be forgiven as we forgive those who tresspass against us in the Lord's Prayer and the offer of forgiveness is something that should stand, but there are many questions I have about the nature of forgiveness so it is hard for me to answer
9/22/2011 1:49 pm (et) arc4justice: private message to Moderator: logs off on 9/22/2011 1:49 pm (et).
9/22/2011 1:50 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: On Yom Kippur, if Jews are asking forgiveness of how they have sinned against their fellow man, then everyone is asking forgiveness of each other - but is verbally granting that forgiveness as part of the prayers as well?
9/22/2011 1:51 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Simeon, I wasn't thinking of a specific hatchet this year, but it is hard to deny that there are tensions that arise between traditions every year
9/22/2011 1:52 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: The prayers are directed toward God. The granting of forgiveness has to be something that we do with our fellow human beings. The High Holidays are intended to be a time when we actively seek out those who have wronged us and forgive them, just as we seek out those whom we have wronged and ask for forgiveness.
9/22/2011 1:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: sort of the same thing that is part of any 12-step program...
9/22/2011 1:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Interesting concept that I once heard in class though, the idea that relationships among persons are also indicative of God
9/22/2011 1:54 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean it works probably more in the Christian tradition as it models off the Trinity, but that every relation is part of a triangle, ech person relates to each other while they both simultaneously relate to God
9/22/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: and each of those ties affects the other
9/22/2011 1:56 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan, that's also a very Confucian idea - the interrelationship of humans in different social contexts
9/22/2011 1:56 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yea, it came up in a philosophy class actually, but it was a philosophy class on Dante...
9/22/2011 1:56 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: (though Confucianism does not bring any god into the picture)
9/22/2011 1:57 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Susan, the concept that you describe resonates in Judaism as well: since other people are creatures of God, we must open our lives to our fellow human beings if we are to open our lives to God.
9/22/2011 1:57 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Right, the professor usually referred to it as a person, the other, and the Other
9/22/2011 1:58 pm (et) Moderator: Alright everyone, we have just a vouple of minutes left, so please wrap up any closing thoughts
9/22/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I believe that religion is about relationships - our relationship with God/higher Power, our relationship with our fellow human beings, our relationship with our environment and our relationship with our own deeper self (the Indian religions through meditation are very good at that relationship)
9/22/2011 1:59 pm (et) Simeon Kriesberg: Laura, I think many faith traditions would embrace your sentiments.
9/22/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: If we put it all in that context (which I believe is a very profound way of viewing religion) the importance of Yom Kippur and any correllary practices is definitely seen
9/22/2011 2:00 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and thus in relationship we have a responsibilty (I think many of the Jewish laws relate to this)
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