“Never a dull moment” — that seems to have been the recurring theme of 5782.
Sounds exciting, but I’ve come to realize that when the words “never a dull moment” are uttered, they usually relate to stressful rather than exciting happenings.
This was a tough year. Family, friends, colleagues — and I — struggled with foreseen and unforeseen medical challenges. Many also experienced shattering and unexpected losses, leaving gaping holes. At times it seemed I was lurching from an errand to an appointment to a shiva.
At the IJN, we started building a new relationship with a new printer after our longtime (40+ years!) vendor closed its doors. There was “never a dull moment” as we adjusted to a new workflow, amending many long-standing practices. The Post Office’s challenges — new delivery standards, procedures, fees — also meant there was “never a dull moment” as we worked hard to maintain communication with our subscribers and the PO to try to improve delivery.
I started thinking that my wish for 5783 would be: May I have a year of dull moments.
But then I reminded myself of all the good non-dull moments in 5782. I received a game hockey stick from my favorite hockey player. The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. My brother and his wife had a baby, named for my beloved late grandmother, Miriam. My nephew, who I think of more as a brother, got married and he and his lovely bride came to Denver for a visit. Another nephew, my close phone buddy, graduated middle school and started yeshiva high school. A niece finished law school and started her first job.
I welcomed a new colleague at the IJN and we started working on our 110th Anniversary Magazine, an extremely exciting and proud milestone. The IJN won an unprecedented number of Simon Rockower Excellence in Jewish Journalism awards.
Would I sacrifice all those good non-dull moments if it meant not having the difficult ones? Possibly yes, but we don’t get to choose.
So my prayer for this year is may our lives be full of good moments. And if they can’t be good, may it please G-d to make them dull.
How do you do Rosh Hashanah?
With prayer in the synagogue?
With special meals at home with loved ones?
Outdoors connecting with nature?
Or, all the above?
However you “Rosh Hashanah,” may this holiday usher in a New Year of good health, personal happiness and peaceful coexistence within our nation and among nations.
We are certainly a bit troubled as a collective; a strained national discourse, our dollar that doesn’t stretch as it used to, and then, the pandemic. Just as we all thought COVID was eradicated, we still find it hovering like a cloud; a friend of mine recently passed away due to COVID complications; and statistics show that you, no doubt, know someone troubled by the virus.
Combine these and I sense a cautious tension among us. My wish for you — all of us — is that we have a bit more patience; with ourselves and with others, with those we agree with and those we don’t. Muster more, if you can. We’ll get there.
In the Sephardic tradition, the holiday prayers of Rosh Hashanah open with a poignant poem, “Achot Ketana — Little Sister.”
It was composed around 800 years ago in the 13th century by a Rabbi Avraham Hazan from Girona, Spain. It is an acrostic, inspired by King Solomon’s description of the Jewish people as “little sister” in the Song of Songs.
Rabbi Hazan’s is a nine-stanza poem. The first eight stanzas recount the difficulty of enduring life riddled with the troubles and pain of illness, pandemic and war. Each of the first eight stanzas conclude with the lament and words from the Talmud in the name of Abaye or Raish Lakish, “Tichle shanah ve-kilelotehah — let the year and her curses come to an end!” This is repeated eight times.
In the ninth and final stanza, the reader is met with words of hope. This time, instead of the previous pained lament of the year’s curses, the final words read: “Tachel shanah u-virchoteha! — let the new year and her blessings commence!”
This is my prayer for this coming year: tichleh shanah ve-kilelotehah, tachel shanah u-virchoteha!”
I have learned so much this year about being a Bubbie. I enjoy watching the things that my granddaughter learns such as dancing, swimming and Judaism.
It reminds me of the things in life that are so important that we take for granted every day: waking up and seeing the sun, smelling the fresh air. And most importantly, seeing and talking to my family. I have always loved and appreciated my grandparents, parents, son and now a grandchild.
For this year, I hope we can all feel this way about each other. This is a wonderful place to live and we should all take a breath and enjoy all we have, and pray for good health and happiness with guidance from Hashem.
One of the most beautiful passages of the High Holiday liturgy is a verse from Isaiah (56:7):
I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My house shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples
I always find it very poignant singing this verse in shul on the High Holidays, living in the independent Jewish state of Israel, my seat affording a view of that sacred mount where that house of prayer — a house of prayer for all peoples — will be built.
My prayer for the new year: May this prophecy — the beginnings of which we have the privilege both of witnessing and of taking part in — be completely fulfilled . . . speedily in our days.
To my dear friends, I want to wish you the most wonderful and extraordinary upcoming year and share an inspiring thought on this essential time of the year.
Free will — choice — is the root of teshuvah (repentance). Teshuvah is about reengineering our will, recreating our desire, rewiring our wants. It’s about the decision to be better, to be great, to become our best and truest selves.
As Rabbi Moses C. Luzzatto explains, if you change what you want, you change who you are. When you make a new decision, you create a new reality for yourself. When the shofar blows this year, let us truly awaken to the deeper nature of reality.
There are always two levels of reality: the surface level and the deeper, spiritual level. The surface is meant to reflect the spiritual, reveal it and emanate its truth and beauty. But often we struggle, we forget, we get caught up in the deception that the surface is all there is. But even when we fail, even when we fall, there is always a path back to our true selves.
This is the message of Rosh Hashanah, this is the message of life. To strive to see more, feel more, learn more, become more.
May we all be inspired to not only see past the surface, but to reveal the truth through the surface, to live holistic lives of truth, spiritual beauty and true oneness.
As we further emerge from the shadow of the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, let us not forget that our grandparents and great-grandparents survived an even worse pandemic. We can bring sweetness to this Rosh Hashanah by remembering their lives, experiences or at least their names. Do you know even half of your eight great-grandparents?
While this is a time for looking forward, let us do so knowing the sacrifices our ancestors made for us to be here today, so we may have another year of life.
Shanah Tovah Umetukah
L’Shanah Tovah tikatevu
L’Shanah Tovah tikatev v’taihatem
Or as my grandfather would say, Gut Yom Tov.
However you say it . . . from my family’s home to yours:
All the blessings and joy of the New Year.
May you enjoy happiness and health . . . and lots of laughter, too.
This past year I had many wondrous healings. This coming year, I pray not to need them.
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