Rosh Hashana 5777 October 3, 2016

shofar2

A FEW THOUGHTS ON YOM TERUAH,

the Day of the Trumpet,

commonly known as Rosh Hashanah

  Though many think of Rosh Hashana as the ‘day of judgment’ or simply the Jewish New Year, I’d like to suggest that we look a bit deeper.  Yes, there is certainly truth in those two concepts but they can also be misunderstood and misapplied.

The very word ‘judgment’ makes people uncomfortable.  We don’t like to be judged by a boss, a teacher, or anyone for that matter.  Yet ‘judgment’ in the context of love is a beautiful thing.  For example, the concern that parents show about their children’s activities, friends, and tendencies is often interpreted by the children as ‘judgment’ when in fact it is the parents’ love for their children that motivate their watchfulness and when necessary, their intervention.  To be honest, one of the most devastating things a parent can do to a child is not to ‘judge’ them. Why? Because a parent who isn’t interested in what their child is doing is sending a message that says clearly—“I don’t care about you,” the most destructive message a child can perceive.

On Rosh Hashanah, when we say that God “sits in judgment” what we are saying is that God loves us: He cares about each and every one of us, He cares about who we are, how we live, and whether or not we are moving forward in fulfilling the destiny that is uniquely ours and for which He put us on this earth.  That the King of the universe actually cares about “little ‘ol me” is a remarkably empowering and life-giving idea. Rosh Hashana is about how much you mean to Avinu Malchenu, our Father, our God.

Potential

Rosh Hashanah is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of the first human being, Adam. God could have launched humanity with a family, a village or a whole planet filled with people: why did He begin with just one person? Jewish thinking is that God began with one person to teach us about the fantastic potential inherent in each individual. You and I have the ability to impact our entire world; we are capable of making a world of difference. Therefore, as we approach the dawning of this year, 5777, we ask ourselves: As “How can I contribute, even in a small way, to making the world a better place?” “What can I do to make a difference in someone else’s life?”

Think of it this way: Every Rosh Hashanah is a vote of confidence from God in your individual, personal potential.  It is also a fresh opportunity to unlock more and more of your personal God-given gift.

Life

On this feast, we ask God to “Remember us for life” and “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” When we greet one another we say “May you have a good year, and may you be written and sealed for a year of good life and peace.”

While the face value meaning is that we should enjoy a long life on this earth, there is a deeper meaning as well.  A person can be alive, strong, and healthy yet be “dead” in their soul at the same time. A life lived in the boots of a Nazi, or under the flag of ISIS is a life utterly drained of all meaning.

Certain choices that we make, and certain courses of action that we pursue have the ability to infuse life with “life.”  Other choices drain out the life of everything God intended for us. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only ask for physical life, but more importantly we are asking that our spiritual life be enhanced; that with God’s help in the new year, we will make the kinds of choices that reflect His giftings in us and His purpose for creating us in the first place: to be a living reflection of Who He is.  When the shofar is blown and its sound echoes across the world, may we hear the call of God to holiness, righteousness and peace.

My prayer for all of us is that the year 5777 will be a year of unparalleled spiritual growth in our personal lives and in our communities.

Shana Tova v’ Metuka – May you have a good and sweet year!

What’s the Fuss about ELUL? August 25, 2014

The month of ELUL on the Hebrew calendar is a thirty day preparation period for the upcoming festival of Yom Teruah (The Day of the Blowing of the Shofar), also commonly called Rosh Hashana, the new year. Throughout this month, Jews around the world and other biblical believers who are in tune with the festivals of the Lord as described in Leviticus 23, turn their attention to the subject of repentance.

Rosh Hashana is seen as the world’s ‘annual review’. In the course of your career, many of you may have experienced a corporate annual review. You know what that means. But did you know that all peoples and all nations also undergo an Annual Review in the courts of heaven? That, in fact, is what the festival is all about.

Now, if you were facing an important court date, an event that could potentially alter your entire future depending on its outcome, you would likely prepare thoroughly for weeks ahead of time, driven by a desire for the most favorable outcome possible.

On Rosh Hashanah, whether mankind is aware of it or not, the heavenly books are opened and God conducts His own audit of each individual as well as each nation. What have you done in the past year with the blessings you’ve received, the challenges you’ve faced, the talents you possess? Have you used each one as a platform for higher growth as a person? Are you, for example, a bit wiser than you were at this time last year? Are you kinder? More compassionate? Or by contrast, is your temper shorter and your faith weaker?

What of the nation? Is justice and righteousness increasing? Or is morality breaking down?

In both cases, it is His assessment that ordains the events of the coming year. What is it that you need to experience in the year to come in order to draw closer to Him, to lead a meaningful and effective life and to advance personally towards the fulfillment of your life’s purpose?

Understanding what is at stake as Rosh Hashana approaches, on the first of Elul the wise begin a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life’s goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for refocusing on our purpose in life while turning away from robotic existence. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly with the intention of improving. After all, who doesn’t want a favorable ‘Annual Review’?

Elul is the time that we acknowledge our failures, apologize where necessary and make amends to repair any residual damage because of our words or actions.

Elul is THE month to be reminded that life on this earth is at best temporary but a greater world awaits.
Your position and mine in the world to come will profoundly reflect how we lived our time on this earth.
The young don’t often think of such realities, but as we get older, we do. And so we should…at every age.

Psalm 27 is thematic for the month of Elul and deserves our attention and meditation.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up.

Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.

Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Elul is a sober time but it is not a fearful time for the God of Israel reaches out to us as we turn towards Him. He loves the repentant soul and because His mercies are new every morning and His compassion never fails, we are assured of forgiveness as we prepare for a brand new start in a brand new Hebrew year.

Elul 1 falls on August 27, 2014, two days from now.

What does this post say to you? I look forward to your comments.