Baruch Dayan Ha’emet. It’s different to start a High Holiday message with this statement.

It means, “Blessed is the True Judge,” and it is the Jewish ritual response upon learning of the death of a person. It gently guides us to continue remembering that God is and remains the True Judge, even and especially when we question the seeming absence of justice, logic, and compassion in the face of our loss. It is also a powerful and absolute reminder that we are not the one who is in charge of determining who will live and who will die, or how, or when, or most painfully, why.

Baruch Dayan Ha’emet means you accept that you do not understand how life works, and surrender comprehension of the purpose of death. You’ve accepted the limits of your understanding. When you are the mourner and someone says Baruch Dayan Ha’emet to you, you understood that the person is as limited as you; they cannot explain your loss or its purpose, only sit with you in your time of grief and that will be enough.

Baruch Dayan Ha’emet means you realize that God is in charge and you are not, that God is the True Judge and you never were, and that is wisdom. It’s wisdom because we all deserve to be judged by a qualified judge, not subject to the whims of ego or mood or desperation, who acts with total consistency and love that you can barely comprehend. We all deserve to be judged so that we are lifted, supported, educated and inspired to elevate our thinking and actions. We all deserve to be judged with a love that is benevolent, kind, and merciful. Subjected to judgment, we all deserve the chance of redemption, to be released from the blame and shame of our trespasses and return to our full and complete humanity.

September is the Jewish High Holiday season, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, respectively the New Year, The Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Booths. First we celebrate being granted the merit to live to see another year, then we acknowledge where we went off the path of righteousness, and finally with a renewed year and redeemed souls we invite our neighbors into a dwelling place made for them to share in our bountiful harvest.

May we all merit to live another year in good health, happiness, and prosperity. May we look for ways to be helpful to one another, may we seek common ground, and may we accept the mitzvah of vi’ahavta le’reyacha kamocha/ You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Shana Tova!!