Friday, September 18, 2020

5781: A New Year

Today is the last day of the Jewish calendar year 5780; tonight Rosh Hashana begins and the Jewish community around the world begins its new year, 5781.

And so many of us are so ready for a new year. Which is, in a way, funny - after all, no one knows if the new year will be better. It’s entirely plausible that it will be worse. 

Yet, somehow, we are looking hopefully to the new year as a time of redemption, of possible Tikkun - repair, as a chance to do better.

And the structure of the Jewish year encourages this. Rosh Hashana is celebratory, but it’s also solemn. Technically it, like Yom Kippur, is a day of judgement, the day on which nations are brought before the Ruler of All, together with each nation’s government, to be judged. We must answer, each of us, as part of that collective, for what we have participated in, for what we have allowed our nation to do, and we are held responsible, together.

But that collective responsibility is a source of not just fear, but also hope. As Rabbi Nachman said, hundreds of years ago, "believe this: if you can break, so you can also fix." 

If this past year has been a whirlwind of horrors, believe this: together, we can end them. It is in our hands to pull together as a nation and to do cheshbon hanefesh, to take a true and deep accounting of our soul, each of us as individuals who together make up a nation, and each nation that together makes up a world. 

Hayom Harat Olam: Today, the Jewish community says, the world is born. This is the season of repentance, in which IF we can stand to look critically at ourselves and at our collective identity, we can enter the new year clean and ready to fix the brokenness of our world. IF we can commit to changing our ways, commit to doing better, to caring more for others - even others that don’t look like us, that don’t speak like us; others that are carrying burdens that we have placed on their backs - we can remove those burdens and help them walk upright with us, then the year to come will be a year of grace, and we can make a start on making this world a fit place for the divine. 

It seems difficult. And ... perhaps it is. But we can map this out and get there. We have the next few weeks, during which we must unsparingly examine our hearts, and not merely promise, but start acting to do better. Start small, and repeat it every day. You can do this: I have faith in you. The Poor People's Campaign is how we come together to build a better, more just, more fair, more righteous nation. We all come together to care of one another - all of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Black, White, Indigenous, every color, every gender, every faith.

May this year to come be a better year for us and for our nation. May we be blessed to repair it together.
- Rabbi Alana Suskin, Maryland PPC Tri-Chair



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