A New Year Message
    Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D. 

A simple man once asked a great Sage why there must be both Chassidim and Misnagdim (opponents, referring to Jews of Lithuanian descent who opposed the Chassidic movement)?  He remarked that even the Chassidim are divided into many groups: there are those whose service to God is primarily focused on prayer and others who think Torah is the most important aspect of faith, and yet others who believe that joyful expressions serve as a better conduit for spiritual fulfillment.  Why are Jews so divided? 

The Sage responded by comparing this phenomenon to the military, which has different types of soldiers.  For example: infantry or foot soldiers, cavalry or mounted soldiers, rocket launchers or distant soldiers, sea farers or sailors.  The reason being that each type comes to battle featuring their own uniqueness to ensure that the battle will be won.  Even the one who sounds the alarm or the bugler inspires the soldier or sailor to respond to his or her duty as they were trained.

So it is with our Jewish people.  They are divided into various groups and follow different understandings of faith in their own unique way.  However, they all come together with one identity, one common ground.  Walk into any Synagogue or Temple throughout the world and you will find the prayers are the same, perhaps the melodies are not and the language spoken a little strange, but the words found in the prayer books are in Hebrew.  The universal language of Jewish prayer.

Remembering this parable brought to mind our experiences in Sun Lakes.  We arrived here from different corners of the world and country.  We brought with us traditions and customs that may seem strange to some and familiar to others.  Yet, when we sit in the pews, we all join together in reciting and singing the prayers of our ancestors as has been done since the beginning.

As the High Holidays approach we should remember our differences but also our similarities.  Some will remember the melodies, some the rituals and others perhaps will look and listen to words and sounds a little different.  It does not matter whether we profess to be Orthodox or Conservative or Reform.  It does not even matter whether we claim to be atheistic or humanistic.  What does matter is that when we come together, we are all Jews determined to identify and offer our individual uniqueness to our holiday experience.

Then, I think about after the holidays.  We return to our normal pursuits and normal prejudices.  We look at each other and forget our common heritage.  The holidays are over, our prayers have been recited, and we may have even felt, for one moment, our connection to each other.  None of us are the same as none of us garner from our experiences the same message or understanding.

We have one other thing in common: we were created by the same God, not to imitate each other or try to imitate God, but rather to complement each other and in turn God as well.  Trying to be the same is not a cause for celebration.  It is false security.  It will be the epitome of monotony.

When we gather let us celebrate our individuality.  Let us accept the differences in our beliefs.  Let us understand that we each contribute in our own way to the greatness of our survival.  Let us be at peace.

Sandi and I wish all a year of peace and contentment, a year of healing and happiness.