Rosh Hashanah is approaching, and I’ve been struggling with what to say. It’s a time of introspection, a time for looking back at all of the things in the past year, reevaluating, reassessing, and moving forward. We will feed each other apples and honey for a sweet and bountiful year to come, and we will pray for each other to be sealed into the Book of Life for the upcoming year.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I am hoping for in the next year. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would wish for you for the upcoming year. Here is the best I’ve come up with:
I hope that you live dangerously. I hope that you make mistakes. I hope that you speak to G…d, that you have moments of meaningful prayer, that you create and dream and live dangerously. I hope that you love beyond boundaries. I hope that you know the feeling of a first kiss – that dizzy, silly, beginning of the world feeling that signals new love. I hope that you weep when you need to weep, and that you care enough to need to weep. I hope that you fight for justice, feed the hungry, house the poor. I hope that when you are in need someone will be there for you in whatever ways you need.
I hope that you have one moment of absolute awe at the magnificence of the world.
Because it is so magnificent.
It is dark and messy and beautiful and brilliant and I hope you will see this in the new year. Rosh Hashanah is a chance to see things differently, and I hope that you do.
It is so easy to get lost in the darkness. There is so much darkness in which to become lost. There is poverty and hunger. There is despair and desperation and a desperate intense isolation. I know that I don’t have to list for you the darknesses of the world, because I know that you see them too.
I know that you want to make these big huge changes in the world, that you want to be able to see the changes, and that this sight is so often practically impossible.
I hope that this year you will live searching for the light, because it is there too. Children smile. Lovers meet. Babies are born. Rivers are cleaned up, and species are brought back from the brink. Girls learn Torah. Men commune with G…d. Prayer happens and it is deep and meaningful and brings light into the world. Heartbreak happens, but it is followed by healing and repair and love again.
And the light is there because you create it. You smile. You are kind. You buy a man who can’t afford it coffee, and it is a little change, but it’s a change. You sit in prayer with someone grieving, and it is a little change, but it is a change.
There is light because you risk everything. There is light because you are afraid and yet still move forward.
Rosh Hashanah is a time for you to recommit to this moving forward. It’s a time for renewal and rejoicing at the new year to come. Be brave. Be strong. Be dedicated to moving forward with joy and awe. Work to live life in radical amazement at the world around you. It is dark. It is scary. But it is also blessed and beautiful. Follow in the footsteps of one of our greatest sages, the blessed Abraham Joshua Heschel, and “live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
It’s the work of a lifetime. It’s difficult. Don’t expect yourself to be amazed every moment of every day. But hold out – expect it once a day. Make it happen once a day – in a flower or a lover’s sigh or the sheer joy of a puppy when you open your door. These are the gifts G…d gives us to help us see the light.
I can pray for no more for you in the new year than this awe, than a single moment of this awe.
It is Rosh Hashanah. We are inscribed into the Book of Life—and the Book of Life is good. Life is good. The world is good – brilliant and beautiful and messy and chaotic and so so very good. Be brave this year and let Rosh Hashanah mark for you the beginning of awe.
With all of my heart, and my prayers for your joy,