From the Pulpit: Messages for the New Year

From the Pulpit: Messages for the New Year

The following are the responses to New Jersey Jewish News’ invitation to leaders of area congregations to share their High Holy Day messages.

Every fall holds the promise of new, exciting television shows. Last fall, the first few episodes of Flash Forward caught my intense interest. The premise of the show is that for just over two minutes, the whole world blacked out and saw a glimpse of their lives six months in the future. While most of the show centered around an FBI agent trying to figure out the conspiracy that led to the black-out, what fascinated me was how each character reacted differently to the future they saw. One character, on the verge of committing suicide, sees in his future that he helps someone else; this leads him to have a renewed appreciation for his life. Another doesn’t have a vision and assumes it means he will be dead. Because of this, he stops living in the present.

While we cannot know for certain what even two minutes of our future looks like for certain, the High Holy Days do give us the opportunity to stop and think what future we want to create. One of Rosh Hashana’s names is Yom Horat Olam, the day the world was born. In a sense, on the world’s birthday, we have a chance to create the world anew.

We create the world anew by taking time for introspection, to think about how our life has been going so far and how we want it to be different in the future. And we imagine our future, we think about what actions we need to take now, in the present, to have that future happen.

Take this time to think about how you want to live the next year, the next five years, the next 25 years. What do we want your personal lives to look like? Your family life? Your community? The greater world around you? If you were in the show Flash Forward, what would your two-minute window into the future look like? Now go out in the world and make it happen.

Rabbi Melinda Zalma
Congregation Beth Mordecai, Perth Amboy

At this time in the Jewish calendar, people will often ask me, “Are you ready, Rabbi?” The inquiry refers, of course, to my being prepared for the High Holy Days — referring to the rabbi’s sacred responsibility not only to pray and repent for himself, but, through words and comments, to assist the laity do the same. I hope I am ready to do that.

My question, though, is more daunting. Is the Almighty ready? I pray that the God of the Jewish people and of the world is “ready” for the multitude of prayers, hopes, regrets, wishes, and teshuva, both personal and collective, that flow from the Jewish people to God.

Another challenging question — “Are you ready?” Have you done a “spiritual tune-up” so you can be receptive to these grand days? Have you prepared your hearts and souls and minds to the themes of these days in this month of Elul when we Jews gradually ease into the High Holy Days? Fortunately, we live in a time when we can help to ready ourselves through the vast resources available on the Internet — not to speak of books and clinics at each of the congregations and which we rabbis are happy to recommend. I hope that readiness happens in all these quarters. Lashana tova tikateivu.

Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer
Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen

Every season is a fitting time for reassessment, including the High Holy Days. Instead of the societal pressures of “wanting and having,” the following thoughts — from a poem by Omer B. Washington — are worth pondering because they focus instead on simply “being” — on being the kind of Jews and human beings we aspire to be with those we love.

  • That you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.
  • That no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.
  • That it takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it.
  • That it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
  • That you can get by on charm for about 15 minutes. After that you’d better know something.
  • That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
  • That it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
  • That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
  • That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.
  • That we are responsible for what we do no matter how we feel.
  • That either you control your attitude or it controls you.
  • That money is a lousy way of keeping score.
  • That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing, and have the best time.
  • That just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.
  • That just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other, and just because they don’t argue, doesn’t mean they do.
  • That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while, and you must forgive them for that.

Keyn yehi ratzon — may it be God’s will and our will to refine ourselves. May you have a year filled with health and happiness.

Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
Congregation Beth-El, Edison

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