The Days of Awe 2017

Here we are again.

Another year, another letter of turgid prose (as you can tell I’m still stinging from some of last year’s feedback – thanks Dan Iles).

It is once again that period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (cutting it fine again as per usual), the Days of Awe in which Jews believe that the act of repentance, Teshuvah, is at it’s most potent. Although one should attempt to repent at any time in the year, life often gets in the way and, in part, the process of Teshuvah at this time is an attempt to cast one’s mind back through the year and repent of one’s sins or bad deeds. This process is important for two reasons, one because from a religious perspective it helps renew the connection to the divine, and in doing so continue one’s life for another year, and two because it helps to create righteous, loving, and moral connections between members of the community.

I write this letter to you because you are, in your own way, a vital member of my community.

This year, as in previous years, I began this process by looking back over my year to remember what has occurred and also read back through the previous letters from this time of year (all the way back to 2011!) and what struck me was twofold. One, how difficult it was to remember the central, personal events that have occurred to me in the past year from my diary, and secondly, how much space, in all their loquaciousness (‘I have the best words’?), the previous letters took up.

Why is this important? I think because, although you may laugh, the theme of this last year has been about trying to shut up, listen, and take up less space. In this year, perhaps highlighted by more newsworthy events, I have tried to realise how much space I have always taken up, and how little this has meant that I listen and respect the voices of a diverse range of people who may not be as privileged, and, in turn, as confident as I. This realisation may have earlier echoes in last year’s message, however since then the assumption that I might be an ally to those other voices has been somewhat tested, and I feel I have been found wanting in my lack of courage and my fear of action. As part of teshuvah, I regret this, desire it to change, and express it as a problem, part of a masculinity I would attempt to distance myself from.

Previous letters have always, albeit with many caveats (there’s another!), sought to frame, define or shape the space and discourse between us. They often sought to grasp at either wisdom or insight or perhaps merely project them. This year I would rather open the door to you, invite you in, and listen.

With this in mind I end this year on a quote of slightly less lofty pretensions (as previous letters had got rather, how should we say, up themselves) as Montell Jordan sings in one of my perennial favourites:

‘If you were from where I am from then you would know’

Well, I’m not exactly where you’re from, so tell me. Help bridge the gap between us. Tell me your story. Show me what there is to learn. Point the way towards a better future between us and in doing so secure further our little community within the loud voice of the world.

This is how we do it.

La Shana Tovah.

May you be inscribed in the book of life.