Making Rosh Hashanah Meaningful
I attend services every year on Rosh Hashanah, and enjoy participating in the prayers and hearing the shofar. Yet I sometimes feel that I'm missing some perspective, which weakens my connection. I feel that if I had a perspective and a goal to concentrate on, that would give more meaning to the time I'm spending in synagogue. I'd appreciate your input.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
I can only tell you what I will be thinking about this Rosh Hashanah with the hopes that this can provide you with a richer, more meaningful experience.
I, personally, have been struggling. On one hand I'm trying to focus on the joy of the High Holiday season with all its potential for growth and a meaningful experience. At the same time I have been preoccupied with events transpiring in the Middle East and throughout the Jewish world.
As we all well know, the decibel level of anti-Semitic rhetoric has risen exponentially over the past years in Europe, reaching a crescendo in newspapers, parliamentary motions and hate crimes against Jews. This hatred is all painted white under the 'acceptable' guise of anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism. This has given a renewed confidence to Muslim terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who know they can rely upon the world community to turn a blind eye to their stockpiling of deadly ammunition. All this with the proverbial elephant in the room; the specter of a nuclear Iran. To say the least, our land and people are in a very fragile, precarious position, both locally in the Middle East and internationally.
We are far from immune to this danger in our own America. Just look at the Hate Israel campaigns going on in so many universities. And we cannot forget the rampant apathy and assimilation of American Jewry, and the dwindling number of American Jews to the tune of some 100,000 per year.
There is, however, a hidden, other side of this equation: the God factor. On Rosh Hashanah we coronate the Almighty as King of the Universe. The shofar blast is our proclamation that He is our sovereign and master of the entire world. There's no power or force that has the strength to stand up to the will of God. An all-powerful, omniscient God has the power to turn around any situation, regardless of how dangerous or ominous it may be.
The shofar, the day of Rosh Hashanah, is a day of confidence and hope for a bright future. This is why we eat and enjoy delicious meals on Rosh Hashanah, despite it being the day our futures are being judged, something one would never do if he had a life-or-death court case that day! We do so because of our trust in the ultimate power of God and His love for the Jewish people. We know that He is just waiting for our prayers, our repentance, acts of kindness and mitzvot to find a reason to judge us favorably.
When the world is holding in balance, Maimonides writes that it could just be that one act done by one individual can tip everything to the side of good. What each of us does really can make a difference!
Let us focus on elevating ourselves this Rosh Hashanah to the point that our prayers will be answered. And may we all be signed and sealed in the Book of Life, for a year filled with good health, and peace and prosperity throughout the world.