May you be sealed in the Book of Life. G’mar Chatima Tova.
That is the traditional greeting for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest of the faith’s Holy Days.
It is a time of fasting and reflection, dedication and prayer. It is a time the observant strive to be forgiven. It is an opportunity to examine the heart.
Those are worthy goals and excellent efforts any time, in any year.
They are, no doubt, more meaningful to the Jewish residents of Pittsburgh this year as they observe the first High Holy Days and the first Yom Kippur since the Oct. 27 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue. Eleven people from the three congregations that shared the building lost their lives in the mass shooting.
It is an observation we can all share because — Jewish or not, religious or not — a glance inward is never a bad idea.
We can examine our behavior. Are our actions something that give us peace or pride?
We can evaluate our habits, polishing off the rough edges to find the people we want to be underneath.
We can elevate our thoughts, challenging ourselves to reach beyond the easy answers to try to grasp truths that could make our lives more complete and our world more content.
We can extend our hearts. It isn’t easy to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but empathy can heal more than most of the Food and Drug Administration’s legions of approved medications.
We can rest — really rest — to give ourselves a moment of quiet, to focus on what is important and what is just noise.
And when all of that is done, we can celebrate. According to the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement Chabad, the celebration is as important as the solemnity of Yom Kippur. It is “an undercurrent of joy … that expresses confidence.”
Finding that joy is so vital despite the dark things in the world because that is what gives us strength and hope to move on, to grow and try to light a candle against the shadows.
Whether you are Jewish or not, whether you are religious or not, may this Yom Kippur be a time that you find peace and joy for the coming year.
G’mar Chatima Tova.