By the Book

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By Daniel Bortz

 

As we near the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many may begin to feel some apprehension, looking at these days of judgment as serious and heavy. While it’s true that this is an especially holy time to connect to G-d, make an accounting of our deeds and make resolutions to do better for the coming year, let’s take a look at this unique time of the year from a deeper perspective.

The Sages teach us that Rosh Hashanah contains within it the energy and potential of the entire coming year. Even in its name, Rosh means “head,” and like the head that contains within it a connection to the rest of the body, directing every minute detail and limb, so too in time does Rosh Hashanah affect the year. This is why it’s so important on Rosh Hashanah to not only reflect on the past, but to be present and look to the future, joyously asking G-d to be our king for another year, genuinely asking for a renewed relationship for this year.

Many things are taken for granted. When we turn on our sink, we expect water will emerge from the tap. A child who opens the refrigerator expects to find food on its shelves. In truth, neither the water nor the food appears on its own. There is a well-staffed company that maintains the water pipes and pumps necessary to draw water from the reservoir into the residential home, and loving parents who invest incredible amounts of energy and care to always maintain a full refrigerator. This kind of recognition and gratitude must be internalized on Rosh Hashanah, that all that we have in health, wealth and happiness, is a blessing, not a given. And we ask for these blessings not only for ourselves, but in order to best affect the world around us for the better.

Indeed, it is significant that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of Tishrei, the day of the forming of Adam and Eve, on the sixth day of the creation process. Surely it marks the beginning of life and time, and thus should be celebrated five days earlier, right? But the reason we celebrate the existence of the universe on the sixth day, says the Torah, is because the entire purpose of creation and life is for man and woman to raise it up to its best potential. To form a kind, moral, G-d conscious society, raising the spiritual sparks and potential all around us to fruition.

When Yom Kippur arrives, our focus may be less on G-d and prayer and more on which Jamba Juice flavor to break our fast on. But let’s make sure not to let this special period of time pass by without taking advantage of its spiritual potential.

There once was a Rabbi sitting in his home learning. Suddenly, his young son burst into the room sobbing loudly. He asked him what had happened. “I was playing hide and go seek with my friends, and I was chosen to hide. I hid and hid and hid, and no one came to look for me!” The boy’s father then began to cry as well. Seeing the confusion on his son’s face, he explained: “G-d Does the same thing. He hides and no one searches.”

G-d isn’t openly seen or revealed. But from the Ocean waves to the tiny ladybug to our beating heart, down to the Divine providence in our personal life stories, He reveals Himself.

In whatever language we pray in during these high holidays, let us try and reflect on where we see G-d in our own lives, looking forward to a beautiful year ahead of growth and happiness.

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