The Pursuit of Human Perfection 742.5

Jews all over the world are in the midst of a ten-day period called the High Holy Days. It starts with Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year, and ends with Yom Kippur, a solemn day of atonement.

The overriding theme is the pursuit of human perfection and the obligation of each person continually assess and improve his character, or as Mordecai Kaplan put it, “to seek reconstruction of one’s personality in accordance with the highest ethical possibilities of human nature.”

It’s more than just making New Year’s resolutions. The idea is to pause from our daily lives and sit in objective judgment of ourselves. To examine the state of our souls, to hold ourselves accountable, and to acknowledge any any gaps between their conscience and their conduct, between the standards we profess and the actions we perform.

We may not always have the moral strength to bridge the gap between our ideals and our actions but we have the moral duty to try. Our sins and shortcomings are compounded when we ignore or accept them.

Jews are given four specific tasks: one, to reflect; two, to repent; three, to seek forgiveness; and four, to forgive those who ask for it. Though the process is clothed in religious ritual, these concepts are equally powerful in a secular context. Religionists and secularists agree that humanity is unique among living creatures in the capacity to understand good and evil and to choose between them.

And whether we call it morality or ethics, whether we think in terms of our souls or our character, all those who have pondered the purpose and potential of human life have concluded that a virtuous life is the best life.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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