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This Shabbat, just before Rosh Hashanah, we read one of my favorite passages from the Torah:

          Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
          Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
          No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.
                                                                                                                    (Deut. 30:11-14)

What is “it”? The ability to turn/return to God with all your heart and soul. To fulfill God’s wish that we reach out to God, that we understand God is right here, waiting.

Judaism can feel daunting because it is a religion of action rather than belief. That means there are mitzvot, commandments, that tell us how to live our lives.

At this time of year, when Judaism demands more of us than at any other time, it can feel off-putting, especially when the High Holiday liturgy includes language that presents a male God-King who is harsh and stern.

But the truth is that the basic message of Judaism is simple: Be kind. Be thoughtful. Don’t judge others. Take care of your community and your family and yourself. Listen to the Voice within.

You’ve got this. Follow your heart. Be a mensch. And let the beauty of these Holy Days lift your heart and touch your soul.