By Andy Shaevel
The High Holy Days have always been a special time for me. It is a time that we come together as family, as a community, and as a Jewish people (Kol Yisrael). We, literally and figuratively, embrace our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors with positive wishes. We gather for special meals from erev Rosh Hashanah to the breaking of the Yom Kippur fast. We listen for, and hear, the sounds of the Shofar. We attend religious services as a community, and together we recite ancient liturgy to take stock of ourselves, our families, and our community, while we sing praises to Avinu Malkeinu to hear our prayers and to inscribe us for a good year in the Book of Life.
The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is always an introspective time for me. I take to heart the task of self-reflection, self-assessment, and the opportunity to turn the page and start each new year with a clean slate. I literally ask my family, friends, and colleagues to forgive me for the things I have knowingly and unknowingly done, said or thought that may have caused them pain or angst, and I try to let go of my resentment and issues with others, hoping that they too will hear apologies and accept my forgiveness as they recite their High Holy Day prayers. While this entire process is very personal, it is also very communal. While it centers us as individuals, so we can chart our own paths for a new year, it also enables us to be stronger and more resilient as a Jewish people.
Resiliency is the key to perseverance. Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and to adapt to an ever-changing world. The challenges we face with the pandemic are real, and unfortunately, we also live during a politically charged time, where intolerance seems to win over acceptance and compromise is a long-lost art. Antisemitism is on the rise both here in the United States and around the world, and Israel has growing challenges that are real and formidable. Notwithstanding, we must stand strong as individuals, as a community, and as a Jewish people to ensure that we not just survive, but more importantly thrive for generations to come.
In reciting the Untaneh Tokef, a traditional prayer based on an ancient poem, we are reminded that on Rosh Hashanah our destiny is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, but through righteous prayer, actions and tzedakah (giving) we have the power to change and improve. This is the exact formula for resiliency and perseverance.
As we embark on 5782 and come together physically and virtually for these High Holy Days, I pray that we take these words to heart. I pray that we find the strength to forgive ourselves and each other, so we can heal as individuals, and as a community. I pray for our individual and collective good health so that we can persevere despite the extended pandemic. I pray that in the spirit of Tikkun Olam we can together as a community to promote social equity, justice, and acceptance, and through our individual and collective actions we can inspire others to do the same. I pray that we embrace the opportunity to participate as a community, and to celebrate the legacy of our Jewish peoplehood. And lastly, I pray that we hear the call of the Shofar and discover righteous prayer, actions and tzedakah (giving) in our quest for peace.
“G’mar Chatimah Tovah” — may each of us be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Andy Shaevel is a local business leader and entrepreneur that dedicates his time and talents to enable Jewish Buffalo to thrive. Andy has served as a Director and officer of many local and national Jewish organizations, including the Buffalo Jewish Federation Andy is married to Amy Marks Shaevel, a foreign language teacher at Transit middle school and their son, Lewis, is a senior at Williamsville East and an active Jewish teen leader.