Guest author: Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz
A disciple once asked the Ba’al Shem Tov: “Why does one who ordinarily feels close to God, sometimes experience a sense of remoteness from the divine presence?”
The Ba’al Shem Tov explained: “When a parent starts to teach a baby to walk, the parent steadies the child with both hands, and the guiding presence is always felt. Then, bit by bit, the parent moves away, establishing ‘growing’ distances which the child learns to traverse on its own. God may seem to move away from us sometimes, but perhaps God wants us to grow by taking hesitant steps toward God.”
At this season of the Jewish High Holidays we pause and yearn for God’s closeness and understanding. Even people who don’t think too much about connecting to God in their everyday lives get caught up in the grandeur of these most holy days and ask God to judge us with mercy. In our prayers, we plea to be remembered for good in the Book of Life. What does it mean to be remembered for good? The image the rabbis put forth is of a two sided scale: We are to pray that our merits outweigh our faults, even if it is just by a tiny bit.
We pray that we might change for the better in the coming year. We don’t expect radical transformation. We take baby steps to help us improve. We set new goals, or reaffirm old ones, that will help us to live the best lives we can live. If we didn’t fall off course during the year we’d have nothing to fix.
Through our prayers we are reminded that we are not alone. God is with us, supporting us, as we set ourselves on the right path. We invoke many different images of God in hopes of one or two resonating with our souls on this day. We call out to God our Ruler, God our Parent, God our Shepherd, even God our Beloved Friend. These are images that invoke a sense of a comforting God, a God who will be there to guide us.
As with our own children, we have to let them slip and fall sometimes. If we don’t they will never grow into their independence. It is hard to create those “growing” distances as we never want to see someone we love get hurt. We have to remind ourselves that letting go is the right move in the long run.
The High Holidays reassure us that maybe we won’t feel God holding our hand all the time, but God will be there helping us grow toward God’s Holy Light, step by step.
Rabbi Moskowitz is a Rabbi at Temple Beth Torah in Melville, New York, USA.
 From Buber, Martin. Tales of the Hasidim: Early Masters. (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1947), 65. Reprinted in Stern, Chaim. The Gates of Repentance. (New York, NY: CCAR Press, 1999), 231.
 Ki Anu Amecha prayer imagery found in Stern, Chaim. The Gates of Repentance. (New York, NY: CCAR Press, 1999), 279.