Rabbis’ messages for the New Year (Princeton Mercer-Bucks)
Leaders of area congregations share their High Holiday thoughts
IT’S FUNNY how the metaphors in life remain even after the original idea becomes obsolete. It used to be that when you created a document, you would take scissors and cut out various pieces of text and pictures, which you then pasted onto a new creation. Today, of course, we do these tasks digitally, but the terminology is the same. When we edit, we “cut and paste” even though scissors and glue are nowhere to be found.
Eventually the metaphor does change. In the keyboard age we copy by typing CTRL-C and pasting with CTRL-V. I don’t know about you, but I do these tasks dozens, maybe hundreds of times a day. Soon these tasks will be obsolete too when all of our editing is done through voice commands or the swipe of our fingers.
My favorite of these commands is CTRL-Z, the undo function. If I make a mistake on the computer, all I have to do is enter that keystroke and the
error is eliminated. If only life were so simple! We all search for the ability to undo the decisions we regret, but unfortunately we don’t have a CTRL-Z command in the real world.
Instead, the Jewish tradition provides teshuvah (repentance), which is yet another metaphor, this time of return. When we engage in teshuvah we imagine ourselves going back to the moment of our mistake. While we may not be able to erase it, we can respond to the error and find ways to heal. Rather than pretend something didn’t happen, as we do with CTRL-Z, teshuvah encourages us to acknowledge our shortcomings and repair them. May this season of contemplation and return help you find growth and self-improvement.
On behalf of our community I wish you and your family a Shanah Tovah U’metukah!
Rabbi Benjamin J. Adler
Adath Israel Congregation, Lawrenceville
Safety at home
AS THE JEWISH New Year approaches, we wind our way through Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Torah. This book is filled with many laws, including the following: “When you build a new house, you must make a parapet for your roof, in order that you won’t cause bloodshed in your house, by one who falls, falling off of it” (Deut. 22:8). Jewish tradition charges each and every one of us with the safety of those who enter our home.
In the ancient Near East, guests were just as cherished as members of the household, occasionally even more so. Therefore, we hosts are instructed to care for everyone who steps foot through our doors. At this time of year, that may mean ensuring the security of our synagogues by hiring police officers to protect us, a kind of parapet. But that also entails being attuned to the psychological and spiritual safety of our community members and our visitors.
Everyone comes to the High Holy Days for a different reason, with a unique story in tow. My job as a Jewish professional is not only to lead worship services and preach sermons, but also to create a safe space for the Jewish people to do cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul, and work toward becoming a better version of ourselves in the new year. This is no small order, and it may be emotionally taxing. Let us then build a parapet for our roof that will keep anyone from falling into despair. Let us be mindful of how and why people enter our home, not just how many.
May 5779 be a year when all of our houses of worship are safe spaces for all who come inside.
Rabbi Adena Blum
Congregation Beth Chaim, Prince-ton Junction
ON BEHALF OF the lay and professional leaders of The Jewish Center, I want to wish everyone a shanah tovah. As Jews all over the world come together for these sacred days, we add our voices to those who pray for peace, fulfillment, renewal, and achievement. We look forward to seeing the members of our congregation over the holidays, and we invite prospective members to contact us to learn about our services, programs, activities, and classes for all ages. We want to do our best to
demonstrate how everyone is welcome at The Jewish Center.
For more information about The Jewish Center, go to thejewishcenter.org; for information about our High Holiday services, please call 609-921-0100.
I wish you all a shanah tovah — a happy, healthy, productive, and good new year.
Rabbi Adam Feldman
The Jewish Center, Princeton
Confessing in plural
IN THINKING about the High Holidays, it strikes me that the short confessional of Ashamnu and the long confessional of Al Chet, which we recite on Yom Kippur, are both written in the plural — we confess our sins, not my sins. If we look at the list of sins for which we are asking God’s forgiveness, it is clear that each of us has not committed most of the sins on the list, yet we still confess them. Why is this the case? I think that using the plural in the short and long confessionals teaches us that although we may not have committed a specific sin, there is someone in the larger community who has in fact done so. By phrasing the multiplicity of sins in the plural, we are not calling out one person who did commit each particular sin, saving him or her public embarrassment. At the same time, we are making an important statement that we support our fellow Jews as they admit their shortcomings, just as we want to be supported despite our errors.
Even as we acknowledge that we are a community, we are cognizant of the fact that the High Holidays are also personal. Each of us is asked to do a cheshbon hanefesh — an accounting of who we are. We need to ask ourselves what are the things that we like about ourselves, what do we dislike, and what do we hope to improve upon during the upcoming year. Answering these questions is not always easy, but it is necessary if we are to take advantage of all that this important season affords us.
My best wishes to you and your family for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 5779. Shanah tovah!
Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold
Beth El Synagogue, East Windsor