(Courtesy: Rabbi Howard Siegel)
It is here, again; the chance to start over. Rosh Hashanah-the Jewish new year-is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” In a year filled with disappointment, doubt, failure, and break-up, it is comforting to know we can look ahead to another beginning. We can’t erase the past, but we can re-evaluate ourselves and the inner strength we possess. We can begin, again, to tackle the obstacles of life with renewed hope in the future. We can do all of this because of a faith in God.
My good friend Rabbi Harold Kushner, whose writings I turn to for inspiration and spiritual direction, asks this question: “What should the first announcement from this Bema be on this night of Rosh Hashanah?” The answer is revealed in the following story:
“It is told of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev that he once summoned all of the Jews to assemble in the town square the next day at noon because he had an announcement of the greatest importance to make. He ordered that the merchants were to close their shops, that all the nursing mothers were to bring their infants, and that everyone, with no exceptions, was to be there to hear the announcement. The people wondered what the announcement could be. Was a pogrom imminent or a new tax? Was the Rabbi going to leave? Or was he perhaps seriously ill? Did he know the time when the Messiah would come and was he going to reveal it? At noon the entire community was present with no exceptions and everyone waited with baited breath to hear what the Rabbi would announce. Precisely at twelve the Rabbi rose and said: “I, Levi Yitzhak, son of Sarah, have gathered you here today in order to tell you that there is a God in the world!”
“At first the people were perplexed. Was this the big announcement that they had left their homes and closed their shops to hear? Had the Rabbi convened them only to tell them something that every school child already knew? But then, as they thought about it, they began to say to themselves: “Indeed, what could be more important than to know there is a God in the world.”
Rabbi Kushner explains, “If there is a God, then there are things we are tempted to do which we will refrain from doing. If there is a God, we won’t be afraid to spend our limited amount of love and compassion because we know that God will be there to replenish us when we run out. If we really believe there is a God in the world, we will treat each other better because we will recognize the image of God in our neighbor, whatever his race, religion, ability, or earning capacity.”
May the coming year of 5771 bring happiness, health, and peace to our families, communities, and all humankind. “There is a God in the world!”