Victoria’s Secrets: Celebrating the High Holy Days

I prayed for forgiveness of my sins as I symbolically threw bread crumbs in the ocean in front of the Westhampton House.

I stood near the ocean with a small group of former neighbors from the Westhampton House on Dune Road, with the sun shining brightly on the silky sand, and symbolically said prayers asking for forgiveness while throwing pieces of bread (my sins) into the sea.

It is the tradition in the Jewish faith during the new year High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to cast off my sins in a ceremony called Tashlikh

I had always been jealous that my Catholic friends could go to confession at any time to ask for forgiveness and then carry on with their lives. 

I’ve always been a “goody two-shoes” kind of person, but who hasn’t said or done something that hurt someone? So I get special joy having this opportunity to rid myself of my sins. 

Art Dresner, a longtime resident of the oceanside, beautifully landscaped co-op, the Westhampton House, takes time to help his neighbors celebrate the holidays by preparing the appropriate prayers. I was happy to join them.

Earlier in the week at Sabbath services on Sept. 11, Rabbi Schneier, the powerful and charismatic leader of the Hampton Synagogue, had invited celebrated actress Tovah Feldshuh to speak. She inspired me with her words on that sacred day of remembrance. 

Tovah Feldshuh will be bringing her one-woman show, “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” to Manhattan following rave reviews of her performance at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

She asked all of us to shut our eyes and see where we were 20 years ago during the 9/11 attacks. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was transfixed in front of my TV disbelieving what my eyes were seeing: a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. “Oh my, it must have been a pilot error,” I thought. But within minutes, it was to be an event in my lifetime that would be equal to my parents’ day of infamy that marked America’s entrance to World War II. A terrifying feeling!

Tovah, in her powerful voice, demanded that the congregants “enter that moment. Be there. Breathe in, breathe out. Be there and remember — we are commanded to remember!”

I loved how she shared a moment in her childhood when she was riding with her father and the horse bucked and threw her into a pile of manure. Her father yelled to her, asking if she was OK, and she said, “Yes, but I’m covered in horseshit!” He yelled back, “Everybody is. Get back on your horse!” And she did! 

Those words took me back to when I found my fiancé dead on the floor from a fatal heart attack, a week before my wedding. My son, trying to console me, said, “Mom, shit happens!” I had never heard that expression before and I knew I must carry on, as we must carry on today with the events of our lives. 

Tovah in her talk reminded us all that the tragic events of 9/11 “cast a dark shadow on these Days of Awe, our holy days. But we are not defined by 9/11. It gave birth to a sea of patriotism and an outpouring of volunteerism that shows the best of what we are as Americans and can be as a national family.”

The shofar is a beautiful ram’s horn that is blown every year during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The call of the shofar is a symbolic battle cry of the Jewish people and represents a reminder of Tzedakah (giving help to those in need) and the covenant between us and God. When we blow the shofar, we trust in God’s plan for us and know that his instructions are our path to a fulfilling and meaningful life in the new year. It is sounded 100 times during the High Holy Days. And a long and loud shofar blast marks the end of the fast day of Yom Kippur.

I loved Tovah’s words — they are so true! Now, we must figure out how we can use those feelings of togetherness and tenderness toward each other to soften the schisms between us. 

She concluded her remarks with a beautiful call to action.

“To tear down the fences, the barriers between us and to share whatever humanity we’ve got. Bring our pain, our brokenness, our yearning, our love and our audacity … If we feel dim, bring on the light. If we feel hatred, bring on love. If we feel despair, let us bring on hope. So sing out and live while living! Have courage, take chances and do good as we remember.”

Let the new year and its blessings begin! Amen!

To all my readers, may the beauty of life carry us through the darkness of some of our days and may love be in our lives as we celebrate the new year. 

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