“Holy” is a big word that is used to capture a concept that feels foreign to many of us. But, it’s my hope that as we journey through the holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur together, “holy” will not only become a word that we’re a little bit more comfortable with, but a sensation that we’ll get to experience, appreciate and grow from in the new year.

To get us thinking about all that is holy in our lives, I’m sharing part of my “New Year’s Playlist” – just a few of the songs that have inspired me as I’ve prepared for the upcoming holidays. While we often don’t realize it, much of the secular music we listen to captures various aspects of the spiritual, holy journey we’re all on. The first song on my playlist, H.O.L.Y. by Florida Georgia Line (yes, I like country music!), is a current top country hit and reminds us that some of the most important people in our lives are holy.

Most of the time, holiness is something that singers and songwriters are seeking. For John Mayer, the absence of all things holy makes life empty and so, he, like many of us, is waiting for the world to change.

Katy Perry’s Olympic anthem, Rise, warns those of  “little faith” not to doubt those who are determined to do more than wait for the world to change. The tremendous ability to rise above all the negativity that fills the world is holy.

But rising is not easy. Embracing holiness is not easy. It takes a lot of determination, energy and practice. And when we begin to rise, we’re often a little unsteady. By pushing through that unsteadiness, we get closer to holiness.

If we keep pushing through, get steadier and find our balance, if we’re lucky, we might just defy gravity and rise above it all.

Today, unfortunately, the lack of civility, the divisiveness of politics and society’s overall lack of compassion makes it hard to feel the holiness that is out there. Too many of us have forgotten that even though we don’t see eye to eye, we have to figure out how to share this world we live in. As Graham Nash sings in There’s Only One:

When we’ve all begun
To see the world we’re on
Don’t you see there’s only one
Then we all begin
To see the skin we’re in
It’s just the same
There’s only one

It’s when we see that “there’s only one” that we begin to live holy lives.

We should all have the holy experience that Aloe Blacc sings about:

I had an epiphany one night,
looking at the endless star filled sky
The world is ours!

But holy experiences don’t have to be shocking epiphanies. Accepting the fact that we’re surrounded by everyday people with diverse opinions, and learning to respect, not necessarily agree with, these people is how we can begin to make our lives holier.

Bob Marley sings about the holiness of coming together with all different kinds of people in One Love:

One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (one love)
So shall it be in the end (one heart)
Alright, give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right

We Shall Be Free (Garth Brooks)

When I close my eyes I see
The way this world shall be…
When we all walk hand in hand
When the last thing we notice is the color of skin
And the first thing we look for is the beauty within…
When we’re free to love anyone we choose
When this world’s big enough for all different views
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free
And when money talks for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there’s only one race and that’s mankind
Then we shall be free

This new Jewish year, we’ll talk about what we can do to open our eyes and actually see the holiness that Garth Brooks sings about below.

Cheryl, Abigail and Jonah join me in wishing you all a very happy and holy new year.

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