The following are responses to an invitation from New Jersey Jewish News to leaders of area congregations to share their High Holy Day messages.
ONE OF THE joys of life is that inspiration can strike from anywhere. As a rabbi, I am constantly searching for messages, words, and ideas that can inspire my community. A number of years ago I was listening to the band Wilco’s song “Wishful Thinking.” The chorus is:
Fill up your mind with all it can know
Don't forget that your body will let it all go
Fill up your mind with all it can know
What would we be without wishful thinking?
Hearing the song, all I could think was that this is the message of our High Holy Days when we are faced with the prospect of our own mortality. God judges us each year, and one day it will be our turn to move on to Olam Haba, the World to Come. The question is, What will we do with the time we have now? Wilco’s suggestion is to fill our minds with all we can know and to engage in a little wishful thinking. What better way to spend our days, particularly these days of introspection at the beginning of the New Year. Our tradition has always encouraged and commanded us to fill up our minds with all the Torah we can know and to pray.
So I ask you, as you spend time in services this year, what are you wishing for? What kind of knowledge are you putting into your head? How are you making yourself a better person than last year?
Shana tova u’metuka! May you be blessed with a year of beautiful wishes that come true.
Rabbi Benjamin J. Adler
Adath Israel Congregation
New Year’s wishes
AS WE BEGIN the new year of 5777, I want to wish everyone in the greater community a year of peace, accomplishment, joy, and community. We are proud to be part of the greater Jewish community, and we invite families and individuals to come to our synagogue and learn more about our programs, activities, services, and more. To learn more about our Young Family Initiative, our award-winning adult learning options, our social and cultural events, and our meaningful Shabbat and holiday services, please go to our website, thejewishcenter.org.
Shana tova — may we all be inscribed for a great new year.
Rabbi Adam Feldman
The Jewish Center
A new beginning
ROSH HASHANA — the Jewish New Year — literally means “the head of the year.” In humans, the head contains the nerve center of the entire body and processes the intricacies of each of its limbs. Similarly, during the Days of Awe, God judges the world and determines its future. This means that, in addition to the world (and us) getting one year older, there is something very significant that takes place at this time that should grab our attention and compel us to tune in.
Our sages teach that the act of sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashana is a call out to heaven that we are ready to accept God’s sovereignty over ourselves and the universe. This, in turn, awakens within God the desire to renew his “lease” with the world, to give it life and sustain it for the upcoming year.
When contemplating this idea, we become aware that the New Year is truly a new beginning. It is a time that can be realistically seen as separate from the past, where new opportunities for growth and progress are presented.
If a new beginning is often beneficial in many aspects of our lives — be it interpersonal relationships, financial situation, or health — then surely this applies to our spiritual growth as well.
I invite you to join our extended family at Young Israel of Lawrenceville, where study and spiritual growth are enjoyed in a supportive and friendly environment during the High Holy Days and all year round.
Rabbi Yitzchak Goldenberg
Young Israel of Lawrenceville
Much work to do
THE DAYS BEGINNING with Rosh Hashana and culminating with Yom Kippur teach us that we must acknowledge that there is a power greater than ourselves. During the High Holy Days, each of us needs to develop and work on our relationship with God. At the same time we must also remember that God expects us to put our relationships with our fellow human beings in order before God can forgive us. This is not always an easy task and takes a great deal of time and effort. Only when we have accomplished this are we ready to move forward and work toward our own redemption.
May we make the most of these High Holy Days as a result of this opportunity to reflect on our lives. Going through this process, our goal is to emerge with a better relationship with God and those around us. We pray that the High Holy Days this year truly transform us and give our lives meaning. There is much work to do.
It is also important that we reflect as a community — where have we come from, where are we now, and where do we hope to go in the future are questions that we must also ask and answer as a community
Best wishes to you, your family, and our community for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and rewarding 5777.
Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold
Beth El Synagogue
Awake and alert
WHEN SOMEONE uses the mikva, the ritual bath, it is not a replacement for a normal shower or bath; on the contrary, one must be completely clean before entering the mikva. This washing is for our spiritual state, not our physical one. The same is true when we speak about the shofar as an alarm clock. Hopefully we are not sleeping in the synagogue on Rosh Hashana when the shofar begins its blasts (especially since the shofar service comes before the sermon). In fact, we are taught that we must be completely aware, conscious of the fact that we are hearing the voice of the shofar announcing the New Year. So what does it mean to wake up if you’re already awake? It means to take our eyes that are already open and to try to see the world in a new way for a New Year.
On these High Holy Days, may we all hear the voice of the shofar, waking up to see the needs of the world around us. What is it that is keeping us from becoming the person we know we should be? What about our family? Our community? Our world? May we enter these High Holy Days awake and alert to the possibility of introspection and evaluation that they provide. May we see the sweetness that surrounds us, opening our eyes to all of our blessings and truly being grateful.
Shana tova u’metuka — A sweet and happy New Year to you all.
Rabbi Joel Simon