By Ori Bergman
Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner! Let’s reflect, feel and take a deep breath into that reality for a moment.
Rosh Hashanah is a deep and Holy day full of meaning. It is the head of the year, the ultimate opportunity for renewal. What exactly are we called upon to renew?
Sivan Rahav Meir points to and explains three things that the sages ask us to contemplate each day as if they were new: Torah, the Land of Israel and our Family.
On various occasions in the book Dvarim (Deuteronomy), we are asked to view the experiences of the past as “live memory” happening today. “On this day (of the revelation at Sinai) the Lord your G-d commands you” (Deut. 26:16) & “On this day you have become the Lord your G-d’s own people” (Deut. 27:9) To which Rashi (the primary commentator of the Torah) states: “Each day, let them (the commandments) be brand new as if you had just been commanded to perform them” & “Let every day be in your eyes as the very same day that you entered into a covenant with Him.”
Now, today… is the best time renew our connection to Torah, to view it as a gift and to seek a new light of inspiration that will focus, inspire and guide your coming year. Practically, consider joining a local Torah class, committing to learn with a chavruta (Torah partner) or purchasing a new Torah book that you could learn from.
The Land of Israel
Israel is the Holy and Promised Land but how is it a new land. In Exodus (13:11), the Almighty says: And it will be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanites as he swore to you and to your forefathers, and He will give it to you”, upon which Rashi elaborates: “‘And He will give it to you,’ that is, you should consider it as if He gave it to you on that same day and not as an inheritance from your ancestors.”
We cannot rely on what we are told by our ancestors to nurture our relationship with Israel (like for Judaism in general.) No matter where we live, we are asked to renew and recreate our personal, living and emotional connection to the Land for ourselves. This period is opportune to bring a renewed authentic connection to the land. Practically, this could be by giving charity to the needy in Israel, following its news, learning Torah from Israel and purchasing Israeli products.
Marriage and Family
The book of Deuteronomy is full of instructions relating to family life and it is precisely here, in our most comfortable and familiar relationships that we are called upon to find something new. Under the wedding canopy, we say, “Behold, you are now holy to me, with this ring, according to the religion of Moses and Israel.” Why do we say “according to the religion of Moses and Israel?” Sivan Rahav Meir explains that our marital relationship and by extension our family life should be the same as our relationship to the Torah given by Moses to Israel—a relationship of daily renewal. Here too, we need to devote time, thought and creativity to renew our passion and ourselves in our family and closest relationships.
Practically, we can commit to distraction-less time with our loved ones, have meaningful conversations and endeavors, learn Torah together as a family, have festive Shabbat dinners together and ensure positive words of encouragement and feedback infuse the home.
In sum, Rosh Hashana is a call to NOT take our greatest gifts for granted.
We are called upon to find new meaning in those elements of our lives that have stood the test of time—in Torah, in the Land of Israel, in family life.
May we have a good new year, a year of true renewal for all of us.
Ori Bergman is the Rabbi of Kehillat Ohr Tzion and a Jewish Educator with the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning.