Rosh Hashanah(Day 1: Genesis 21; Day 2: Genesis 22)
Family Parsha Rosh Hashana 5764
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is the time we proclaim God as our King. This means more than just recognizing Him as an all-powerful 'dictator' who can force us to do what He wants. It means that He is a king in the finest sense, a wise and loving leader who deeply cares for our well being, and uses His power for our best good. On Rosh Hashana we affirm that we want God to be our leader, and declare our trust that He'll lead us in the right direction. By doing that, we make Him into our chosen King, and not just our dictator.
In our story, a girl discovers the difference between a dictator and a wise leader.
"DICTATORS AND KINGS"
As the school bell rang, Rebecca Sears suddenly felt a new surge of energy. While she enjoyed her classes well enough, it was her after-school dance group that really got her excited. The group was now preparing its annual holiday program. This year's theme was "Rosh Hashana - the Coronation Day."
Before they started, Mrs. Allen, the new dance instructor, had explained the theme to the kids - something about how on the Jewish New Year we proclaim that God is our King, and not just our dictator. Rebecca didn't really understand what she meant by that. After all, God was King whether we proclaimed it or not. And what was the difference between dictator and king?
But she didn't allow herself to think about all this too much, as she was much more interested in getting into the dance. But once practice started, Rebecca began to feel like she being ruled by a different kind of dictator - Mrs. Allen. The instructor worked the kids really hard. She wasn't at all like last year's instructor who let them do, more or less, whatever they wanted. Mrs. Allen stood over them to make sure they did each move properly, and made them practice the moves so many times that Rebecca felt like she was going to pop.
After a few days, Rebecca felt like she couldn't take it anymore and was ready to quit the group to escape the 'dictator's' clutches. But she figured since she was already there, and dressed for practice, she would endure one more session.
They started up. Again, more repetition, more tough moves. But this time, Rebecca started to feel a little different. She noticed how she was beginning to master the complicated dance steps, and how the whole group was really starting to come together. Everyone making the right moves at the right times really made a difference. She began to feel excited. If they kept it up, this was going to be a real professional show, not like last year's sloppy performance!
But what was even more interesting was that Rebecca began to see Mrs. Allen in a different light. She watched her busily go from girl to girl, encouraging each one to try a little harder, to bring out her best. She could feel the instructor's real love, and dedication to both her students and to the production's success. Maybe Mrs. Allen wasn't such a heartless dictator after all?
Rebecca didn't quit that day. In fact, she, and the rest of the kids got more into the dancing than ever before. They actually looked forward to Mrs. Allen's instructions and exercises, because they knew she was doing it to help them.
By the night of the show, they had jelled into one big, perfectly choreographed team, thanks to their devoted leader, Mrs. Allen. The auditorium was packed as Rebecca and her friends stood anxious, but confident backstage. Mrs. Allen addressed the audience with a few opening remarks, explaining the theme of the show, just as she had to the kids before the first practice session. She talked about how Rosh Hashana was about discovering that God is not just our dictator, but our loving and dedicated King; how sometimes what He sends us might seem difficult and hard to understand, but it's all in His plan to help us grow...
Although Rebecca had heard it all before, this time the woman's words suddenly clicked. Now she understood. These were exactly the feelings she had been having about the instructor herself!
The dance recital went great. Everybody said it was the best ever. But for Rebecca it was something special - a living lesson about loving leadership, and the start of a great, new year.
Q. How did Rebecca first feel about her new dance instructor?
A. She felt like she was a 'dictator,' making them work hard for no reason.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized that the instructor really cared about them, and that the things she was making them do was for their good. This is what we learn from Rosh Hashanah, that God leads us for our own good.
Q. What changed Rebecca's attitude toward Mrs. Allen? Did it have something to do with the instructor starting to act differently?
A. The dance instructor behaved the same towards the class the entire time. What changed was the way Rebecca perceived her. Originally it seemed to her that the instructor was simply giving them demanding things to do as a way of bossing them around. While she did what she was told, Rebecca resented it, and would prefer that she stopped. But as things went on, she started to see that the instructor was really doing the things she was to help them, and saw her guidance as a positive thing.
Q. How does this relate to Rosh Hashanah and our relationship to God? A. God is the leader and guider of everything in the universe, including us. Yet how good our relationship is going to be with Him is largely in our hands. If we choose to see Him as just some big 'Boss' who runs the world however He pleases, we are not going to feel so close to Him. However if we think more deeply, we will discover that God cares very deeply for each of us, and is running everything to teach us how to be better and happier people. Rosh Hashanah is the time that we focus on this idea, and set the tone for a close and loving relationship with God for the whole year to come.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does it mean to make God our King instead of our dictator? What are some practical ways to do that?
A. A king, by the classic Jewish definition, is a ruler who rules with the consent of his subjects. Without that, though he may remain in power, he only does so through by force, a much lower level. When we commit ourselves to willingly accept God's decisions about how the world, and our lives are being run, we have made Him our King. The main way to accomplish this is thinking about and expressing all the good things God has brought into our lives, and to work hard not to take any of them for granted. One of the main points of Jewish belief is that everything God does, whether we understand it or not, is for our best ultimate good.
Q. On Rosh Hashana it is customary to greet each other with a blessing for a 'good and sweet' year. If we believe that all that God does is good, isn't the blessing for a 'sweet' year redundant?
A. While it is true that everything God does is good; it is impossible to deny that many of life's events and situations are anything but sweet. We bless each other that God will give us everything we need, and teach us all the lessons we need to learn in a way that also seems sweet and pleasant from our human perspective. This is certainly not beyond His ability, and I wish it for each of you. Shana Tova.