The Days of Awe! The Jewish people approach the new year in awe of creation; the wondrous power and beauty of the universe, designed by our infinitely powerful Creator -- and produced not just for humanity in general, but for each of us particularly!
Rabbi Tarfon constantly repeated: "The day is short, the work is vast, the workers are lazy, and the Master is impatient." With this in mind, we read the following Torah portion every year before Rosh Hashana:
The hidden things belong to God, but the revealed things are for us and our children forever. (Deut. 29:28)
On this Rashi comments:
We are not responsible for the 'hidden things' of others, because we can't possibly know what another person is thinking. But we are responsible to correct 'the revealed things.' If we don't, we're held accountable.
The Jewish people are areivim, guarantors who are responsible one for another. There's no such thing as "I'll do my own thing and it won't affect anyone else." The hole in the ozone layer does not discriminate. Drugs, theft and violence have no boundaries. Assimilation is ravaging the Jewish people and can strike at any home.
Each and every one of us is a guarantor. If you guaranteed on a loan, and see it headed toward foreclosure, you will surely find some way to make the payments.
Rosh Hashana marks the birth of mankind, the pinnacle of creation. This is the time to renew our commitment to Tikkun Olam -- to repair the world to the best of our ability. Become energized by the idea of this obligation. It's intrinsic to who you are. When you actualize your unique contribution, you're actualizing your potential. That's genuine meaning, genuine pleasure.
Sounds awesome. But in practical terms, how do we proceed? Where do we find the answer?
The Torah continues:
This commandment is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven for you to say, 'Who can ascend to the heaven for us...' Nor is it across the sea... Rather the matter is very near to you -- in your mouth and in your heart -- to perform it. (Deut. 30:11-14)
The Almighty is teaching us how far we must go to straighten out the world. If the answer would be in heaven or across the sea, we would be obligated to go there and get it. Fortunately, we don't have to. The answer "is very near to you -- in your mouth and in your heart."
On Rosh Hashana, we ask the Almighty to inscribe us in the Book of Life. Life doesn't mean spacing out. Life doesn't mean being a robot. Life doesn't mean sleepwalking. Life means to be real. The shofar is blowing and saying, "Wake up!" What in the world do you want?
We proclaim our priorities by reciting the Shema twice each day, and by putting a mezuzah on our doorposts. Pay attention. Are you focused on the words? "God is One, He is a personal God who cares about each one of us, and He does everything solely for our benefit." Understand this. Make it real.
The Creator of this universe is your Father. He wants to give you life. You have the free will to choose. Free will is a power given to each of the six billion inhabitants of this earth, every human is created with a divine spark. This power is not in the heaven or across the sea. It's within your reach. As the Almighty says: "I have placed life and death before you... Choose life so that you will live" (Deut. 30:19).
This Rosh Hashana, make the commitment to go all the way, to chose life for yourself and for mankind. Life is gorgeous and full. Wake up to the most awesome potential in creation. You.