Rabbis’ messages for the new year (Middlesex/Monmouth)

Rabbis’ messages for the new year (Middlesex/Monmouth)

Leaders of area congregations share their High Holiday thoughts

NJJN did not include these messages in our collection of greetings published in the previous two issues. We apologize for the error.

Return to sacred living

I THINK IT is safe to say that many of us feel as though the world has been turned on its head over the past few weeks. There is this sense of chaos and urgency that is being felt across our country and it is easy to feel swept up into those feelings. Now is actually when we need the High Holidays.

The month of Elul is meant to be more than a place holder for us before Rosh HaShanah. It is meant to help jar us from our routine ways, our diversions, and distractions so that we can see old things anew. Elul is meant to help us find the sacred in what we relegated to mundane — to return to sacred living. However, the month is Tishrei, starting with the very first blast of the shofar, is a call to action.

Each one of us should take the time we need to find a way to help make the shift back to sacred living and respond to the urgency and chaos that runs rampant on the news in a way that is sacred. Our response should be one that is directed by our faith.

Ours is a faith that demands that we “care for the stranger, the widow, the orphan.”  Our faith demands such behavior of us because we have a vision of the world in which all human beings are God’s children, God’s creations; and ours is a faith that makes this imperative central to our religious worldview because we have experienced outrageous and horrific behavior by others against us in our own time. We may not be silent to the injustices around us. 

May this period of rebirth and renewal help us all to find sacred and productive ways to respond to world events, interact with one another, and help make this world a place worthy of God’s presence.

L’shanah tovah.

Rabbi Philip N. Bazeley
Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple
New Brunswick

Our expansive hearts

SOME OF THE deepest and most fruitful new beginnings are also the most poignant, because we are all, in our own ways, saying goodbye to the year that was — its joy, pain, exultation, and losses. We are acknowledging that change will come, and affirming that we are as ready as we can be to face whatever will be.

The most comforting piece of wisdom I can offer is not from a long-ago Jewish text, but something I learned from one of my confirmation students. In reflecting on what he had learned about Judaism that year, he said, “We are a people with large hearts.” I never forgot that. Our hearts are expansive enough to miss what we had, what we knew … even as we celebrate the new beginnings that lie ahead within our communities and beyond them, too.

The truth is, we all get exhausted from time to time. We get our hopes dashed and our hearts broken. We all lose our compass and can’t imagine how to journey forward even one more day. Then somehow, we find our path once more. Or we begin the hard work of navigating new paths. And that’s how we regain our footing — informed by our past, proud of our present, and confident in our future.

If Rosh HaShanah truly is the time in our spiritual lives when we open the Book of Life, and what is written there reveals itself, then may that opening and that revelation bring with it a renewed sense of purpose, goodness, and blessing. 

May we all be so inscribed. L’shanah tovah.

Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman
Temple Emanu-El

read more: