Susan Elkodsi — Long Island Herald
The Jewish year of 5776 is coming to a close, and preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are in full gear. This includes all of the Shana Tova and “Happy New Year” posts on Facebook. Some are funny, some are profound, but all are designed to remind us that this is the time of year when Jews all over the world will take stock of the past year and think about the coming year. What went well? What would I like to change? How am I different now than at this time last year?
All good questions. Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England, posted an animated card that asked, “On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as you weigh up the good and the not-so-good, and shine a light on your life, ask yourself three fundamental questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live?” These questions might be easy for some to answer, and will keep others up at night. Most of us will have to give them some thought, and the answers will change over time.
Just as the festival of Passover coincides with the Spring Equinox, Rosh Hashanah coincides will the arrival of Autumn. In many cultures, the change of seasons represents opportunity; for change, for renewal and for self-examination. In the Jewish tradition, we call this teshuva, which means “turning,” although we speak of it within the context of “repentance.” As the beginning of the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Rosh Hashanah more formally invites us to begin this process within ourselves. We have the chance to rectify wrongs we might have done, renew or repair relationships, and think about how we want to go forward in the coming year. What can we “turn around” in our lives?
Even though the calendar sets aside a period of time for this type of personal examination, we don’t need to wait all year for it. The daily liturgy contains a personal supplication that invites us to consider our thoughts, words and deeds, with the knowledge that acknowledging something we might want to change is the first step in doing so.
Rosh Hashanah goes by many names, and one of them is Hayom Harat Olam, the “Birthday of the World.” Our tradition teaches that God created the world on this day, and the piercings sounds of the shofar (ram’s horn) awaken us to a new day, and a new year, when we acknowledge that we have been created to be God’s partners in creating a better world for all. Each of us is here for a purpose; each of us has a spark of the Divine within us, and each of us is essential to the workings of the world.
As we usher in 5777, I pray that we will soon see a world at peace. May we be inscribed for a year of health, happiness, prosperity and blessing.
Rabbi Susan Elkodsi
Malverne Jewish Center