Shannah Tovah. We begin now the new year 5779. We cannot know, as the Unetaneh Tokef reminds us, what we shall experience in this next year. Each of us will stand before our God and prepare to write a new scroll of life. Can we gain an insight from tradition? The Torah portions themselves set before us a value system of life and action. Also, the commentators that looked at letters and numbers (gematria) loved to see in these letters and numbers, messages. So, we see that the number seventy is represented by the Hebrew letter ayin and the number nine, by the Hebrew letter tet.
That letter for seventy is also the first letter of the Hebrew word for eye. The tet is the first letter in the Hebrew word for good. What can this mean for the coming year? Shall it be a year of the “good eye”? Or, shall we hope and pray that this coming year be a year that we have the courage to “see” the “good” in the world, in people, and in the possibilities and opportunities that may come before us. Each of us will face both positive and less than positive life choices. The Yom Kippur portion Nitzavim will remind us to make choices that enhance and value life, even when those choices are challenging and difficult. The gift of life that we receive each day is a source of blessing. None of us know what the year will bring and some of us (and again,, we cannot know who) will find seeing the good in circumstances difficult. However, an underlying message of the Holidays remains that, above all, we value life.
Living a life of meaning is a theme of the liturgy and Torah readings that will embrace us in this season. Each of us, in our unique way, will seek that meaning for each of us is at a different stage in this life journey. Seeing the good in our life and in our experiences will be tested. Yet, as get older, we know in our souls just how precious, fragile and fleeting life can be. Our test, maybe like Abraham’s in the Akedah story that we read on Rosh Hoshonnah, is to strive to see and be the tov/good in life. And the tradition also tells us, I believe, that a challenge is not only to see the good in life, but to see and to celebrate the good in each of us. How we see our own self and soul reflects on how we see and deal with the world at large. That is why the Holidays are, in a very real sense, a mirror on our own self and soul. That is why we are called on to reflect on who we are and how and what we choose. In the end, it all will come down to how we choose to see life.
Finally, this season and the year that begins, presents us with that unique opportunity see in the time we have, the opportunity to bring shalom to our souls and to the part of the world that we inhabit. Families will gather and relationships will be renewed. In many ways, it is a season of healing. Remember that passage that we see in the Yom Kippur liturgy that offenses between people are not reconciled by Yom Kippur. It is up to each of us to seek forgiveness from people we have wronged. Again, shalom and healing rests with what we choose to do. Alden Solovy, a brilliant writer of liturgy, wrote this following meditation for the Holidays in his book “This Grateful Heart” * The words speak to the varied themes of the season, but really, reflect the hope that in this coming year we have the ability to “see” the goodness in the world and in our own self and to help create a year that allows all of us to see the goodness that is possible in every act, encounter and relationship.
The Season of Healing
This is the season of healing:
Of healing our hearts and souls,
Of healing the moments we share with each other
And the moments we share with ourselves.
This is the season of memory:
Of remembering our parents and grandparents,
The love of generations,
The holiness of our ancestors.
Tis is the season of stillness,
The season of silence and quiet:
Of deep breaths.
Of open eyes,
Of compassion and consolation.
This is the season of healing:
The season of grief turning to wonder,
Of loss turning to hope,
The season that binds this year to the next,
The season that heralds the redemption of spirit
And our return to God’s Holy Word.
Shannah Tovah from Jewish Sacred Aging®. May it be a year of heath and healing and peace.
Rabbi Richard F. Address
- “This Grateful Heart”. Alden Solovy. CCAR Press. NYC, NY p.50. Used with permission of author. You can listen to Alden discuss his work on a “Seekers of Meaning” podcast archived on this website.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.