L’Shanah Tovah

                                     Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.


No matter how we calculate the passage of time, whether we consider January or Tishrei as the beginning of a New Year, it is always a time to pause and reflect and even contemplate.  So much has happened in that short span of time.  Lives are lost, births are recorded and in between we travel into unknown areas.  Places we haven’t been to before.  There is excitement and hesitation.

Tishrei and the ushering in of Rosh Hashanah is also a time to rededicate our spiritual self.  It is a time to think about relationships, missed opportunities.  We know that bonding and connecting help us make life livable and rewarding.  Our lives are cemented by love and understanding with friends, family and sweethearts.

Even when we lose a loved one, we somehow, through the experience of this season, find comfort and courage.  One day we wrote the name of someone we held dear on the sands of time and then it was washed away.  Some are fortunate to be able to write a new name and just as many never seem to find the energy of the desire to write again.  All this becomes part of the experience of our spiritual journey.

This time of the year seems to produce melancholy and despondency.  Instead of rejoicing as another year rolls around we concentrate on what was and we tend to go through the motions of gladness.  We should remember that just as the trees shed their leaves in the winter and sleep, we too go through certain emptiness.  But then comes spring and summer and the time of re-birth – the time for a New Year – and all is right.  Even those of us who lost our true love or loving parent or a child, we have memories.  Memories sustain us and give us renewed strength.

Rosh Hashanah gives us the opportunity to garner our strength and bring a new sense of purpose to our existence.  Rosh Hashanah connects us to life as we remember the past.  Rosh Hashanah helps us understand the beauty of life, while not forgetting those who are no longer a part of everyday living.  And this remembrance gives us the impetus to celebrate.

Rosh Hashanah should, to paraphrase a Yiddish folk saying, enable us to understand that time is a healer and our best friend in the entire world is God.  Rosh Hashanah should teach us, as a saintly Hasidic rabbi once said, that doing evil to another human being is worse than doing evil to God.  That person may move and you will never know how to reach him to ask for forgiveness, but God so completely surrounds us that it is always possible to find Him if you are truly seeking.

Sometimes we find it so difficult to understand God and our place in the universe.  We become so cynical because of all that happens or doesn’t happen.  It is ironic that we, the people of faith, sometimes lose that faith.  Is it so difficult to remember that we have so much to be thankful for – family, friends – more importantly – life!  Instead we look for scapegoats for our, sometimes, self-inflicted misery.  We seem to be so sure that God is nowhere to be found because there is so much ugliness.  How can there be God and also such agony?  We constantly blame God for our misfortune and all the while we create such unhappiness by not allowing love to be part of our daily experience.

God is here!  God is everywhere!  All we have to do is look around us to see the beauty of nature, or the birth of a child, and the colors of the rainbow, the breathtaking view of the horizon as the sun rises and sets.  Just watch a bird soar through the sky and know that God is there to lift us to greater heights of ecstasy through intimacy and sharing.

The Ba’al Shem Tov reminds us that we should learn and reflect to the best of our capacity, and when we reach a point where we are unable to make sense of life, we should supplant faith for understanding.  It all boils down to one word: faith.  We must have faith in tomorrow and our ability to meet each day with joy and thankfulness.  And just when we think we have lost all faith and seem to have abandoned God, we should love God even more.  We do no less for a friend or family member, how much more so for God who gave us the ability to love so completely.

Perhaps, at this time of the year we should remember the words of Maimonides: “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, has created and is a guide to all creatures, and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything.  I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is unique and His uniqueness is singular, and that only He is our God, Who was, Who is, and Who will always be.”

Perhaps we will awaken in us the faith needed to understand this time and we will be refreshed and renewed allowing us to face tomorrow with greater anticipation.  After all this is a time of faith and healing and hoping and dreaming.  And dreams do come true if you believe.