Former NASA Astronaut James A. Lovell said, “There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person that makes things happen.” We have the power to make good things happen. Each year, we approach the Jewish Holidays with high expectations and anticipation. Why not? It is a time for new beginnings, ones we can create for ourselves. In just a few days, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the sound of the shofar blasts will be heard.
It is a time for the High Holidays; time that we gather with our families, neighbors and friends and concentrate on prayer and introspection. A time to give thanks for the ways in which we have been blessed and strive to improve our relationships by asking forgiveness and making amends. These are the Days of Awe to acknowledge the Almighty as the creator and ruler of the universe; renew and strengthen our commitment to a spiritual way of life, and pray for a sweet new year—a healthy and peaceful year. Make no mistake—this is no easy task. We can choose to become the authors of our own chapter in the Book of Life or a passive puppet.
We all have a choice. Each one of us has the free will to decide how to direct our thoughts and actions. Each of us can choose to hold on firmly to the principles and values of faith and gratitude. Each of us can choose to do one more good deed, one more act of kindness, to help tip the balance of the world toward life.
On Rosh Hashanah, we look to our past, as well as to our future, for the growing of spiritual strength as well as staying committed to a positive energy way of life. We reach back into our collective history to draw inspiration and to learn from the wisdom of our heritage. At the same time, we look ahead toward future generations, knowing that what we choose for our own lives today will affect our children, our children’s children, and, indeed, the future of the world. When we choose to align our way of life with the divine presence, we are doing our part to help create a society that is humane and G-dly. We are fighting the darkness of the world with the light of our good deeds.
This is a time of return, or repentance when we are focused on the process of improving ourselves and coming closer to the Almighty. By actively engaging ourselves through self-evaluation, reconciliation, prayer and giving an extra measure of charity—we are choosing life, just as the generation in the desert did after they heard the Biblical Moses’s message. Hopefully then we will see the good that emerges even in the midst of darkness, and we will recognize that every one of us has the power to make meaningful changes by the choices that we make.
As the High Holidays begin, we look back on all the moments during the past year that give us reason for hope. Around the world, a new generation is reaching for their universal healing of the pandemic and all its consequences.
In our community, we’ve responded to our challenges by focusing on what really matters–education, friendship, family and community.
This last year was one of hardship for people everywhere. Too many of our friends and neighbors continue to struggle in the wake of difficult health and economic challenges. And beyond our borders, many of our closest allies, face the uncertainties of an unpredictable age.
As Jewish tradition teaches us, we may not complete the work, but that must never keep all of us from trying. In that spirit, I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness and peace. L’Shana Tova Umetuka.