Who are the Jewish People?
August 27, 2021
Rosh Hashanah is the time of year when we as individuals find ourselves at the center of the universe in direct communication with God. For a brief moment the present stops, the past does not recede and the future refuses to beckon us.
The High Holy Days are rest stops on our journey through life; a brief respite to catch our breaths, to check our baggage and to recharge our human energy. To understand where we have been, where we are, and where we are going requires us, (utilizing “contemporary lingo”) to call up our spiritual Waze to see if our direction needs a compass recalibration.
It is a time when we are drawn to the synagogue to refresh our souls for the journey still in front of us. The beautiful cadence of prayer and cantorial melodies, and the ambience of the sanctuary encourage us to think about our ethics, values, and relationships.
A better understanding of these personal characteristics gives us a fix on our lives. Hopefully, from that insight we can learn how to make the journey ahead better and more comfortable for us as individuals, and for those with whom we will interact and encounter in the days ahead.
Rosh Hashanah and the 10 days leading to and including Yom Kippur demonstrate the facet of our Jewishness, which emphasizes our individualism. Can anyone doubt, having observed the present contentious state of sectarian Judaism, or the bitter political dialogue among ourselves and the cantankerous state of Knesset debate among the many political parties in Israel, that the Jewish people are individualistic?
Still, we move imponderably through history as a cohesive people connected to each other by ethical, cultural, religious and national links.
We are an ancient but progressively modern optimistic people who, from the richness of our past, continuously seek renewal, always rejecting victimhood in our individual and collective experience.
Ironically, but by no means coincidentally, the Jewish New Year occurs in the month of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. We are also blessed with a New Year in the spring, the holiday of Passover, in the Hebrew month of Nissan.
Passover is the season of our national liberation from Egyptian slavery and the fulfillment of the covenant with God to establish the Jewish Homeland in the Land of Israel.
What is it about the Jewish People that requires two New Year observances? The answer lies in our duality. On Rosh Hashanah, we look into ourselves to find ourselves. During Passover, we seek each other and collectively, find ourselves as the Jewish People. The two experiences are intertwined with each other, but of necessity, are separated so as not to exceed our psychic limits.
The experiences of the two holiday seasons, each considered positioned at the “beginning of the year”, signal us that each member of the House of Israel gives strength and a sense of renewal to the Jewish people and also reminds us that each Jewish person can only fulfill himself or herself by being inexorably linked to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.
Wishing all my family, friends and all people of good will a Happy Jewish New Year; and let us pray this holiday season for good health and serenity in our personal lives, for the safety and security of the State of Israel, and that respect for human rights will prevail throughout all the nations and peoples of the world. L’Shanah Tovah!
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Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.