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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Explains Celebration and Atonement Following the Jewish High Holidays

Best friend of the show Rabbi Brad Hirschfield joins Father Dave to discuss two of the most important days in the Jewish calendar: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

Rosh Hashanah, celebrated last week, commemorates the beginning of the Jewish liturgical year. However, Rabbi Brad notes that, “It celebrates the creation of the world and birth of humanity” and not just the beginning of the Jewish faith. “It’s an opportunity to remember at that moment you’re beginning a liturgical cycle…it should be grounded in the fact that we’re all in this together.”

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Rosh Hashanah begins 10 days of repentance, which concludes with Yom Kippur, also known as the “Day of Atonement.” Rabbi Brad explains that while this is a serious day, he also finds it “awesome.” He says, “Part of the biblical promise of the Day of Atonement is there is nothing which we could have done [that] cannot be understood and forgiven by an all knowing, all loving God. And so it’s a serious day, but it’s a happy day, because…there really is this cosmic reset button, and it’s manned by an all-knowing, all-loving God.”

The challenge is to take God’s forgiveness and apply it to the disagreements and wrongdoings in our lives. Father Dave and Rabbi Brad note how humans often get this backwards, and view forgiveness as transactional. Father Dave explains, “It’s like the legal system that we witness that says, ‘Okay, go and do your time.’ And then at the end of that, we’ll say, ‘Okay, we’re square’…but with God, it’s like let’s start with [forgiveness] and then work it out.”

Rabbi Brad continues, “The past really can be allowed, at least in God’s perspective, to be in the past. And if we can know that, maybe we can cut ourselves some slack and even more importantly, have the bravery to make it right with other people.”

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Touching on current events, Rabbi Brad and Father Dave discuss the difficulty of defining God’s role in a natural disaster like Hurricane Ian. Rabbi Brad notes that “everything comes from God” but we as humans are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. “God is, as we believe, infinite and we are finite. We have to resist the temptation to connect all the dots,” He says.

“I don’t know the calculus of why God sends a hurricane,” Rabbi Brad says. “But I do know there is a very high degree of correlation between people who believe in God and people who are the first to run out there and help someone suffering.”