By Mel Pearlman

High Holidays - A time for mutual respect and forgiveness


September 8, 2023

The days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are devoted not only to examining our relationship with God, but also to self-reflection and our relationship with others.

Our tradition, developed over more than three thousand years, has created a rich narrative of prayers and readings which, selectively are an integral part of synagogue services for all denominations. Included in the High Holiday liturgy is the retelling of our rich history from the rituals and pageantry of the High Priest in the Holy Temple to our religious experiences throughout the centuries.

Also included in the holiday observance is remembrance of the martyrs throughout our history who sacrificed their lives to assure the integrity and survival of the Jewish people; and to keep intact their belief in monotheism, devotion to Torah and their unbreakable connection to the Land of Israel.

Among the world’s great religions, Judaism is unique. Besides being the first to embrace monotheism and reject idolatry, it is the only existing religion in the world connected to an ethnically identified people from its very inception. It is a people and religion connected to a land by virtue of its relationship with God. It is a people and religion that not only perceives an individualized relationship with God, but a collective one as well.

Whether one is religious, secular, agnostic or an atheist there is a

place within the context of Judaism for all of us; and the holy days gives Jews, whatever their level of observance, an opportunity to collectively and individually, stop and reflect on our own lives and how we relate to each other, to Israel and the world at large.

For religious Jews, Torah, Rabbinic law and Israel guide their relationship with Judaism. For secular Jews, tradition, culture and connection with Israel are the primary paths to embracing Judaism.

For agnostics and atheists the Torah may not be God’s word or divinely inspired, but its story-telling and Talmudic commentaries can be a source of wisdom from which they can define their ethical and cultural values in Jewish terms.

Of course, the above categorizations are not intended to be rigid divisions, since every Jew can at one time in his or her life find elements of belief and doubt from each of the rich offerings of the Jewish experience.

The ten days embracing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, according to traditional religious belief, are when God judges us and allows us to express our remorse and to repent for errant spiritual behavior, “to avert the severe decree”.

But deeply imbedded in the meaning of this holy period, our Jewish tradition at every level of observance calls upon us to reflect on our behavior and treatment of our fellow human beings.

For every Jew it is an opportunity to examine his or her own behavior over the past year with an eye towards improving personal relationships and restoring and maintaining respect for one another in our different approaches to our Jewish heritage and beliefs.

Having recently returned from visiting the death camps in Poland and reflecting on the wholesale destruction of our people, it is particularly poignant and critical for us to respect each other and to not allow our political differences to undermine our common destiny.

No matter what your personal relationship to Judaism is, looking at our similarities and differences within our own community in this light can be a source of unifying our people instead of driving us apart. It will strengthen our resolve to fight the increasing onslaught of antisemitism and anti-Zionism from whichever direction it emanates; and which ultimately threatens all of us in the diaspora as well as our brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel.

Wishing all a Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year!

If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.

Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.


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