Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday evening and the Jewish Federation developed this resource page to provide current information about holiday services in our community. We hope you are able to find opportunities for you during this time of reflection and renewal.
Also, please note the Jewish Federation office will be closed on Monday and Tuesday in observance of the holiday.
5783 begins Sunday evening. I was always told that Rosh Hashanah celebrated the “birthday of the world.” Yet, in fact, Rosh Hashanah is really the birthday of humankind. Why do I say this? Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, yet the first day of creation (birthday of the world) happened on the 25th of Elul.
It is written in the Torah that God wanted to bring and share God’s “light of kindness” with the world. But without others to share it with, it could not exist. Thus, God created humankind on the sixth day, the day we celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Interestingly, nowhere in the Mahzor (High Holiday prayer book) do we find mention of Adam's birth.
Thinking about what to write, I looked through a folder of quotes and comments I like to keep and many resonated for me at this time of the year. Please indulge me as I share a few random, perhaps disjointed, personal thoughts as we enter the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe):
- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, "If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”
- Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” This seems apropos following the two-plus years since the start of the pandemic. I hope we can all take a step back, reflect on the year(s) past (who we are, how we are, how we treat others, and ways we can improve), and recognize our lives have been greatly impacted. We cannot, however, spend our time living solely in the past. In many ways the pandemic provided us with the blessing to think about the future -- personally, professionally, and communally -- and to seek new ways to enjoy and experience our lives.
- Perhaps contrary to what I just shared, German spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says we are too obsessed with the future. He said, “If we are always living for the future, we never experience the present because the future is only a thought.” Maybe we spend our time waiting for a life that never arrives and end up with a life full of missed opportunities? Eckhart reminds us, the only moment we ever truly have is the here and now.
- Speaking of the present and being present. Recently I was in a restaurant and watched a family of five sit at their table with each on their own electronic device. No one was talking to each other – just playing on their phones. We have all seen it -- and we are all guilty of it. In fact, my wife sent me this TED Talk from Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT, because I was checking my email on my phone too much. Turkle argues that people in interpersonal social situations (particularly young people) are too often distracted by technology. Therefore, we pay insufficient attention to one another, creating increasingly shallow relationships. We are not present. I am hoping in the year ahead we think about the kinds of connections we want to have (less texts/social media) and reclaim the value of human empathy and true listening. Dr. Turkle states, “In-person conversations foster more introspection and a heightened sense of belonging.”
- This week in the Wexner leadership program, the group focused on “what is and is not pluralism.” Dr. Diana Eck from Harvard University writes, “Pluralism isn’t just the fact of diversity, but how we respond to it…Pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.”
- This was very helpful as I navigated through a community issue, which ended up being a positive learning opportunity. Without going into detail, let us recognize that the Jewish people do not have a singular view on belief, practice, nor behavior. We do not all share behavioral norms, observances, and customs – religious, cultural, and even lifestyle choices. At the same time, foundational beliefs and important sensitivities must be at the forefront of any decision. At this time of renewal, let us listen more, learn from others, and grow from such experiences.
- I would be remiss if I did not mention upcoming and important Jewish Federation initiatives on behalf of our community. In late October, Brandeis University will begin our community study. I will share more information as we get closer in regard to the sampling and your participation. In addition, our community trip to Israel in March 2023 has a few spaces remaining. Register today for this incredible experience. Finally, in late April 2023, we will celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary. We will be collaborating with Jewish agencies and synagogues to create multiple programs in 2023 to mark this occasion. More exciting details to come.
As we begin the New Year, may we continue to be a part of a united Jewish people, and may we go from strength to strength together. Shana tova u’metuka – may you and your family be blessed with a wonderful, healthy, prosperous, and sweet New Year.