Torah For Today! This week: New year, new opportunities
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Torah For Today! This week: New year, new opportunities

Rabbi Jeff Berger looks ahead to Rosh Hashanah and what it may bring for the community

Rosh Hashanah this year occurs in the same week children go back to school. Like all new beginnings, we’re filled with a bit of excitement and a tinge of trepidation. So, what does the Torah say about the start of another Jewish new year as we approach 5782?

It is unclear how many congregants will attend the High Holy Days. Many synagogues are opting for shorter services and a continuation of safety measures against Covid-19. Most communal leaders are taking a cautious yet encouraging approach.

In the three-day period leading to the Revelation at Sinai, God said: “If you listen to My voice and observe My covenant, you will be
a treasure to Me from among all the nations.” (Ex. 19:5). 

Mehilta explains that “all new beginnings are difficult but keeping one mitzvah enables us to keep further mitzvot”. 

The same can be said about recovery from a pandemic. We’re confronted at the start of our new year by a plethora of challenges – climate change, increasing inequities and an as-yet-unrealised mental health crisis. 

All that is before addressing the growing refugee issue, including the most recent victims of the Afghan civil war.

My late mother’s advice to me, when I was a child overwhelmed by the world’s seemingly immense problems, was to start by taking a few deep breaths and focusing only on things within my control (if only she’d realised that she was at the forefront of a trend today called mindfulness).

There are certainly things to be afraid of. But there is far more to celebrate. Many of us are vaccinated. We’ve resumed holding weddings and bar/batmitzvahs. And we are attending communal events, such as the Maccabi GB Fun Run and the new Interfaith Fun Run. 

The most important lesson I take into 5782 is that self-preservation requires unselfishness. There are countless good causes to support. Choose one – and let it bring you into a better future. Collectively we can have a significant impact. 

Tizku LeShanim Rabot – May you have many good years ahead.

  • Rabbi Jeff Berger can be reached at rabbi  jefflondon@gmail.com
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