L’Shana Tova: Teshuvah, Tefilah, Tzedakah—Repentance, Prayer, Charity and Justice.

by | Aug 16, 2013 | Other News

These are the watchwords for the Days of Awe or the High Holy Days between the start of Rosh Hashanah and the conclusion of Yom Kippur. All are examined whether they have lived by these words in the past year and whether they promise to live by these words in the coming year. We are judged, inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life based upon the sincerity of our deeds, the virtue of our prayers and tenacity of our repentance, the selflessness of our charity and the righteousness of our justice.

We undergo a process of personal introspection not only of our relationship to the Almighty but also of that to our family, friends and community. We ask for forgiveness not only from God, but from those in our lives who may have been hurt by our words and deeds. We hear the sound of the shofar—the biblical call to our people urging us to arise, be grateful for what we have been, but also to look forward with seriousness of what we can become. It is a call that embodies a message of optimism and hope that is the essence of the Days of Awe.

The shofar and the High Holy Days are also designed to remind us that we are a community with obligations to one another. We are a people who take responsibility for one another so that we may all flourish and perform the mitzvot. We can ask through prayer for forgiveness from God for the acts of omission, hardness of heart and neglect, but we can never seek out the multitude of Jewish children suffering from hunger and pain who could have been helped, but weren’t. We ask our community to do that for us as we pray to God to be given the opportunity to perform the mitzvot of tzedakah in the coming year.

It is easy to proclaim one’s desire to change, but not so easy to do so. It is not easy to let go of our anger, our hurt and well developed reasoning for our behavior despite our proclamation to do otherwise. It is not easy to express gratitude for what one has and forgive those who cause us pain so that we seize the opportunity to become what we intend or as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “The gravest sin for a Jew is to forget what he represents.” We must strengthen ourselves, our people and our community and be what we are capable of being not through words but through deeds.

Our Tidewater Jewish community is indeed a special community. We are lucky to be part of it and must never take it for granted. We are admired by residents and leaders of other communities for our incredible commitment to the Jewish tradition of caring and concern and the mitzvot of tzedakah. Our community’s name rings out in far off lands where poor Jews have food, clothing and shelter because of the generosity associated with that name. Our community’s name is linked with a love for Israel, Jewish education and Jewish identity because we do not think about commitment, but because we live it.

This year, with the help and assistance of the leaders of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, our community undertook five “mission” trips to visit Israel, Cuba, Czech Republic and Hungary. More than 125 community members returned inspired by how fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedakah through the UJFT strengthens Jewish people around the globe.

The almost 30 people who went to the Czech Republic will never forget visiting a place where the din of prayers still hung in the air and the belief in the Almighty never seemed to have vanished. It was a hidden synagogue of the former concentration camp of Terezin or Theresienstadt, where our group as if responding to the yearning echoes collectively said the S’hma out loud. We stayed to look at the remnants of the decorations, murals and inscribed Hebrew lettered texts, but one line of text stayed with many of us as we left, Da Lifneh Me Atah Amod—Know Before Whom You Stand.

It is our belief that if you understand and let this simple phrase into your life, into your being, then you will hear the shofar everyday and everyday will be a holy day. If you go to synagogue Da Lifneh Me Atah Amod—Know Before Whom You Stand. If you speak angrily to a family member, friend or employee Da Lifneh Me Atah Amod—Know Before Whom You Stand. If you are asked by a member of the community to perform the mitzvah of tzedakah through the UJFT, Da Lifneh Me Atah Amod—Know Before Whom You Stand. Always, always Da Lifneh Me Atah Amod—Know Before Whom You Stand and righteousness will guide your words and actions.

We know Da Lifneh Me Anachnu Amodim—Know Before Whom We Stand and we commit ourselves to our community. We want to wish you and your loved ones the healthiest and happiest of New Years and may you all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Miles Leon
UJFT President

Harry Graber 
UJFT Executive Vice President