What do you wish for this new year? What do you wish for yourself, for your loved ones, for the country, for the world? Take a moment and consider it, envision it. The Jewish New Year reminds us that we can start over. We can learn from our mistakes, heal our relationships and work to create a better future.
Do you believe that? Do you believe you can change both yourself and the world around you? Things can be so discouraging as we face the many challenges in our day. Our tradition teaches that the work we do on ourselves, daily, weekly, yearly, ultimately changes the world. The energy of the Yamim Nora'im, the days of Awe, can be hopeful and inspiring if we open to it. Too often we get overwhelmed with all that we might not know, all we think we're supposed to do, all the prayers we don't understand, all the fears of doing it wrong or not doing enough. We stay away from community because we’ve been hurt or disappointed or never felt quite connected. While Judaism does ask us to step out of our comfort zones and do the work of Teshuva, of returning to our highest selves seriously, it need not be a burden or a trial of judgment. The Jewish High Holy Days are ultimately infused with love, acceptance, joy and hope, feelings and experiences so vital during these very trying times.
Kabbalah teaches that every Jewish Holy Day is infused with an energy that will guide and shift us if we allow it. The energies of the season are so vast and rich that we truly can be transformed. We are called to take a break from our ordinary lives, to get off the exit ramp from a road filled with news, noise, and controversy and be awakened by the Shofar. We are called to come together, to see and hear and support each other as we dive deeply into ourselves. It is a Holy, sacred time of turning and returning (teshuva), ritual and prayer connection (tefilla) and giving that supports justice (tzedakah), all opening the door to new possibilities and new beginnings.
in 2016, Michael Hunter Ochs, a leading composer of Jewish and Interfaith worship music was commissioned to write a song for The 92nd Street Y in honor of The Global Blessing (New York). I'd like to share some of his lyrics to "A New Year", a favorite song and prayer of mine. I offer his words as my fervent blessings, as we step into a new year together, and transform ourselves and the world.
May this be a year of love and kindness. May strangers come to be friends. May truth and compassion always guide us. May this be a year of hope and healing for all of those in need. May all of our deeds be a blessing. May this be a year of selfless giving. May this be a year of peace. And may we forgive and be forgiven. A new year, a good year, a sweet year. A chance to start all over. A chance to bring us closer, closer to the ones we love, to a world that we can be proud of. As long as there are stars above, there comes a new year. Amen.
Shana Tova, Rabbi Abby