Sadly, our planet and people continue to experience horrific natural disasters. The earthquake in Mexico, killing over 200 people and impacting the Jewish community and its institutions, and Hurricane Maria, are just the two latest. As we always do, the Jewish Federation has opened an emergency relief fund mailbox for contributions and 100% of those funds will be sent to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) who is already on the ground assisting.
Rosh Hashanah and 5778 begin this evening. I had always been told that Rosh Hashanah celebrated the “birthday of the world.” I learned earlier this week that Rosh Hashanah is actually the birthday of humankind. Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, yet the first day of creation happened on the 25th of Elul.
It is written in the Torah that G-d wanted to bring and share his “light of kindness” with the world. But without others to share it with, it could not exist. Thus, G-d created humankind on the sixth day. Human beings are considered the pinnacle of creation, enjoined to protect the world and to utilize all its resources to bring the world to its spiritual completion. Interestingly, however, nowhere in the Mahzor (High Holiday prayer book) will you find mention of Adam's birth.
One commentator suggested a fascinating thought, indeed one the modern scientist may embrace: perhaps the cosmos was truly born only when Adam opened his eyes to observe it? After all, don’t quantum physicists and cosmologists tell us that there can be no events, no universe, without an observer? The universe begins, then, with the creation of the first human consciousness; “He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being.”
We are all observers to our world. And this year we each have the opportunity to make an incredible difference -- not to be bystanders – and, instead, to get involved in our community and to share our kindness with others.
A colleague of mine recently shared a quote from Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist philosopher, who wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”
I love this quote. It’s a reminder that we can only really understand our lives, and the impact that we (can) have, by looking back at what we’ve already done. But we can’t spend our time just living in the past. We have to keep pushing ahead. We need to take our experiences, our wisdom, our learning, and look ahead, too.
Someone in my office asked if I take time to truly reflect during this holiday season. In reality, I do not in the way I could or should. My parents always instilled in me a forward-looking mindset where every day is a new day and a fresh start. But that is not how most of the world functions. We have built a tapestry over time of who we are. As my social work professor said, “The greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
As Rosh Hashanah begins this evening and we enter the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe), I hope we all take a step back, reflect on the year past (who we are, how we are, how we treat others, and ways we can improve), and create a path going forward where we find greater meaning in our lives.
Shana tova u’metuka – may you and your family be blessed with a wonderful, healthy, prosperous and sweet New Year.
P.S. The Jewish Federation offices will be closing at 1:00 p.m. today and closed Thursday and Friday in observance of Rosh Hashanah.