ROSH HASHANAH EDITION 5779 SECTION D PAGE 20
In a year of great turmoil in our country and the world, may we find the strength, wisdom and insight to contest injustice, combat bigotry, advocate for equality and seek holiness in the everyday ordinary of life.
May you be graced with quiet moments of simplicity and reflection, challenged by new ideas, travel to new places, and have the courage to acknowledge your mistakes as you forgive others for theirs.
May you be embraced by your loved ones when you need their support and offer love, guidance and an open mind and heart to those who need you.
And may all of us have a year of good health, abundant blessings, gratitude and peace. Shanah Tova U-Metukah.
During the years that I lived in London I spent the High Holidays in a Sephardic synagogue, the magnificent Bevis Marks, Britain’s oldest. The liturgy was quite different from the Ashkenazi one I was familiar with; indeed stalwarts of the Ashkenazi service, such as Unetaneh Tokef, were not included.
Amid the differences, however, were all the similarities: Proclaiming G-d’s power, admitting sin, asking for forgiveness.
The apocryphal observation attributed to George Bernard Shaw that “Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language,” could be amended to “Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews are two Jewish cultures separated by a common liturgy.”
Another difference in the two services that I noticed was that many of the tunes in the Sephardic service were sung in upbeat melodies. These were often recited out loud, in unison, the joy permeating the sanctuary. It seemed almost contradictory as the text of the piyyutim (liturgical poems) did not imply celebration. For example: “Chattanu lefanecha, rachem alenu, we have sinned before You; have mercy on us!”
Unexpectedly, the synagogue in Zurich had a similar custom specifically for the Al Chet prayer: Together, in a happy melody, the congregation sang the various sins we had all committed either as individuals or as a community.
Joy in confession? It seems contradictory. But Rosh Hashanah, we often forget, is also a festival, a time of celebration. We are not only fearful of G-d’s power on judgment day; we celebrate it. And while we acknowledge our misdeeds, and strive to be better people in the upcoming year, not only do we celebrate that opportunity but we express joy because we believe that G-d will pardon us our sins.
Wishing everyone a Rosh Hashanah filled with joy and celebration.
This was a year of losses, personally and tangentially. Even though the seasons changed on schedule, it felt as though I walked through a perpetual autumn.
Soon fall will reappear in nature. The High Holidays circle like leaves.
The challenge is beginning anew, without forgetting.
Some of us face this mysterious flux every hour of very day — but something larger looms in yearly cycles. Whether real or imagined, we believe it.
My prayer for 5779 is that we begin again — always moving forward, and remembering the love.
Most of all I pray for health. Then I pray to learn how to pray with greater depth, direction and care. I pray for freshness each and every day —and for the safety of the people and the state of Israel. I am thankful for a lucid consciousness and the spiritual capacity at least to know where I go wrong. Itake joy in the triumph of good when it pops up, and it does. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and publish, to string together words and ideas in a way that, I hope, yields rhythm and beauty. I have no words for the gift of the study of Torah and the the gift of family.
I join my family in wishing the community a happy and healthy New Year; one filled with goodness, kindness, charity and much deserved happiness. I am thankful to Hashem for all the good in my life and feel fortunate each and every day.
Tolerance — which does not mean “approval” — has a basis in Judaism. It doesn’t mean we are always perfectly tolerant of each other, but we are expected to try.
The Talmud tells of a disagreement between the schools of Hillel and Shammai that was finally resolved by a voice from Heaven: “The teachings of both are the words of the living G-d, but the law is in agreement with the School of Hillel.” Why did G-d side with the School of Hillel? “Because they were kindly and humble, and because they studied their own rulings and those of the School of Shammai, and even mentioned the teachings of the School of Shammai before their own.”
In other words, they were tolerant and G-d rewarded the House of Hillel for that.
At this time of renewal — the New Year — let’s look to the example of Hillel and Shammai. However you celebrate, may 5779 be a year of health and happiness.
As we approach the start of 5779, my prayers are for the peace and security of my family, our country and the Jewish people.
But I’m also praying that Americans and Jews, here and in Israel, are able to approach the coming year with the peace of mind that will enable them to think clearly about the challenges that face us without engaging in hysteria and hyperbole and the grace to discuss them without resorting to smears, demonization and questioning the good will or the intentions of those who disagree with us.
We confront a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the globe, threats to Israel’s security and questions about how we define ourselves as Jews and Israel as a Jewish state.
I pray that we not forget the centrality of Zionism and Israel in the fate of the Jewish people as well as the importance of our religion, laws and tradition in keeping faith with both the past and the hope of a Jewish future.
I pray that we will not treat secular partisan loyalties as our chief loyalty and that we as well as our children will find the courage to stand up for Jewish rights in the face of a hostile popular culture.
And I pray that we remember that what unites us as Jews and as Americans is still greater than that which divides us.
“Zochreinu le-chaim . . . Remember us for life, O King who desires life.”
I’m praying together with and on behalf of people fighting to beat illness, to regain their good health and independence. I’m praying for doctors and nurses — G-d’s angels — in helping people find healing. Zochreinu le-chaim. Praying for another year of life. May it be a healing one. May it be sweet. Shana Tova U-Metukah.
Again, I give thanks for my loving husband and family. I pray that we all show compassion and respect. We can all touch a person who may be hurting and suffering with a simple act of kindness. Just stop for a moment and look around.
May everyone be blessed with good health, happiness and peace. May G-d intervene in the world.
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