A clean slate
The High Holy days are designed as a time for reflection, repairing and making ready. A new year, a new set of ideas and a determination to do better than last year. Really? One day leads to another, time goes on. I hit a BIG birthday a couple of months ago (really?). I had decided that I would cut back on my physical workouts when I hit that number. But, the next day I said to myself “Hey! I’m only a day older”—and went back to the routine.
We all live life one day at a time. Jews have been doing this for millennia. Our history is that we were always prepared to leave on a moment’s notice from wherever we were. We have this concept of being unaccepted and ready to be uprooted at any time.
Then came the Third Jewish Commonwealth. There is a Jewish homeland. For all its warts, for all the problems it has—Am Israel Chai. We are a people who just keep popping up. If you go to Rome, be sure to see the Arch of Titus. There on the face of the Arch is a procession. It is either the Romans carrying the Golden Candelabra, celebrating the sacking of Jerusalem, or the whole empire converting to Judaism (just kidding).
The Babylonians tried it, the Romans tried it, the Turks tried it—and here we are back in our land again. We were thrust from Spain, from England, from almost every country but we are here to celebrate a new year once again, in almost every nation on earth, including our own.
The history of the Jewish People should have only been a footnote in the dark pages of history. But we overcame. A people for at least a thousand years before we became a religion, we have brought to the world our set of rules, law, basic customs and traditions. And they have been co-opted by almost every culture, every religion even, and sometimes especially by those who despise us the most.
This will be a year of challenges—once again. The forces of evil are gathered at the borders of our nation, our tiny nation of Israel. We know, as we have known for all time, that in time of crisis, the Jews can only count on the Jews. With a little over one percent of the population in these United States, we seem to wield a lot of clout. Good. Even if it is just an illusion, let us keep it up. We need it.
We just passed through 10 days of reflection, where we had to get right with our fellow men and women before we stood before God and asked his forgiveness for our sins against God. How far back did you reach? Was it just the past year? Or did you have a nagging memory that you thought was overdue to be purged? Well, good for you either way.
Now, in theory we are ready for this year with a clean slate and our promise to be a better person and devote our lives to more than just our own daily pursuits. Really? Just think of what you could accomplish for your fellow man.
I got into a really heavy discussion with a Jewish person who had taken up Buddhism. He spoke of the Buddha who left the life of the palace and gave up all worldly pursuits in his quest for enlightenment. I asked why the Buddha, living in his parents’ palace and seeing the misery of the people of his land didn’t set out to do something for them instead of sitting under a tree and seeking enlightenment.
Seems to me that if there is a God, his teachings and those of most of the prophets tell us that as the new year begins, it is a great time to take on some responsibility for those who have so much less than we. We have in this country—in most countries, including Israel—a huge income gap. Yes, there are some who will not help themselves and seem content to take and not strive for a better life.
Let’s face it, that’s a minority. We hear from the politicians, especially as we approach an election year, that we have to narrow the gap between the haves and have nots. But, we are Jews! It is in our genes to aid our brethren. Remember, “if one Jew is in trouble anywhere in the world, all Jews are in trouble everywhere in the world.”
So, while we are just a few days into the new year, it is a good time to reflect on while how far we, the Jewish people have come, there are those who need the help of Jews. We must support the people of Israel against those who would destroy us. We must protect Jews here who face anti-Semitism. And, because we are the Jews of tikkun olam, we have the obligation to heal the world. Get started. You have a clean slate. Shana Tova.