The Great “Tour De Shana”

by | Sep 19, 2014 | Torah Thought

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

As Jews, we find it soothing to come together for annual gatherings. Everywhere we turn we have gatherings. What we need, however, is a constant reminder about why these gatherings and services are significant and how they can change our lives. As we approach the upcoming holidays we have to ask ourselves if we have moved spiritually and emotionally forward this year or have we stayed stagnant? Are we the same person we were a year ago or are we better and more thoughtful to others? Did we have a better relationship with those around us this year or were we just as cynical and antagonistic as we were in the year prior? And finally, did we connect to Our Creator in any unique way this year or is our relationship with G-d the same as it has been for years?

These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we approach our holiday season. When Albert Einstein said that in order to keep your balance on a bicycle you have to keep on moving, he was teaching us a powerful lesson about life. If we want better relationships we have to work on them. If we want a better self-esteem we have to do something about it. If we want to have a more powerful connection to G-d, then we have to actively bring meaning to what we do and not just do the same thing year after year.

Each and every year, people approach me before Rosh Hashanah and they say that they are looking forward to the holiday. When I inquire as to why they are looking forward to the holy time, the response is usually something that invokes meaningful reflection. They tell me about Rosh Hashanahs past spent with family and friends. They recall familiar food and annual discussions about people and places long gone. These memories are beautiful and should be treasured, but in order to make Rosh Hashanah be a renewal, a life changing exercise that can jump start your year, and a truly meaningful time that can connect one to the Highest Source, there needs to be more.

Mental awareness of the holiness of time is something that we often don’t think about, but can be life altering. G-d created time and some time is created holier than other time. It is there for us to tap into and for us to make the most of. Alternatively, we can live through it, expending minute after minute of this precious commodity dwelling on the past, talking about others, eating delicacies and enjoying the time off of work.

The Chassidic Torah commentator, Sfas Emes, who became famous for his greatness in Torah study in the late 1800’s, quotes the Zohar in saying about Rosh Hashanah that when we talk about our success in the upcoming year, (i.e. our health, our wealth, our family, etc.), we are speaking to The Creator and asking Him to see who we really are and not what we have done. In other words, we should think about G-d like a father, (hence, the famous prayer, Avinu Malkeinu). A good parent knows that his or her child is basically good even when they do something wrong.

The parent has faith in the child and does what is necessary to teach the child how to act properly.

This year, let us try to recognize the holiness and potential of the upcoming time we are about to embark upon. Let us join together and recognize that everything that happens is only because our Father in Heaven wants us to succeed in all of our endeavors. Let us come together under the umbrella of change and take action to make this Rosh Hashanah the most meaningful and powerful time of our year and maybe even of our lives. Finally, let us remember that we have to keep “our balance” by moving forward spiritually and never deciding that we are satisfied with what we have become.

May we all be blessed with a sweet and happy new year.

—Rabbi Gershon Litt is the executive director of the Norfolk Kollel, rabbi of Adath Jeshurun Synagogue and director of Hillel at the College of William & Mary.