Here are some excerpts from Rabbi Yossi Friedman’s High Holy Day messages:

On the power of community:

“I know that many within our community are experiencing the Coronavirus pandemic differently. Some are suffering greatly from loneliness, loss of income or family related issues. Others are enjoying the extra time for reflection and reconnection. It is true to say that we are not all in the same boat. Yet when you are part of a community, you are empowered to be there for others in their pain and learn from others in your own pain. Community allows us to become deeper and better human beings. Don’t forget the power of just one phone call to someone that you haven’t seen this year or one that you know is alone. It only took one sneeze in China to spread around the globe. One simple act on our part can truly make a massive difference.”

On the power of forgiveness:

“I think we live in an age where many of us have become very quick to judge and vilify. It is easy to hide behind a screen and send a sharp message that can cut someone down and undermine their confidence, self worth and public image. Today, I ask us to give ourselves and others the gift of forgiveness. Let’s learn to give honest and genuine apologies when we do something wrong and become quick to forgive when others do the same. King David is described in the book of Nevi’im (prophets) often in very harsh terms. He is called out for his wrongdoings. Yet every time, he owns up and takes full responsibility. “Chatati”, he admits, “I have sinned”. Perhaps this is why he became our nation’s greatest king and leader. This is our inheritance. We must inspire the world that it’s possible to change and grow but first we must learn to forgive.”

On becoming your best self:

“As we approach Neilah I ask us all to pray! What is the essence of prayer? It’s an exercise in imagining and envisioning. The first time we encounter the form for hebrew word used for prayer, “tefillah”, is in the Book of Bereshit where we read how towards the end of Jacob’s life he tells his son Joseph: “Reoh panecha lo pilalti” (“I never imagined I would ever see your face”). This is what true prayer is. It’s the act of envisaging what or who I can become. It’s about tapping into G-d’s vision for my life as my Creator and true Knower of my soul’s infinite potential. The questions we all must ask ourselves when we pray are: What am I capable of achieving if  only I believe in myself? What kind of a parent, spouse, friend or leader can I become? Let’s ask ourselves these questions as we pray this year, and let’s then resolve to put them into action!”