As we approach Rosh Hashanah, our tradition summons us to Teshuva, a Hebrew word that means “repentance” or “return.” It implies taking a good and honest look at our lives, and resolving to become the people that we know ourselves capable of being. Yes, more than anything, Rosh Hashanah is a time for soul-searching and for considering the discrepancies between our affirmations and our actions; the discrepancy between our creeds and our deeds.
Long ago our sages declared that “a person should repent on the day before his or her death.” And they were asked: “how can a person know when that time is about to come?” And their response: “since we don’t know when that time will be, we should spend all our days in repentance.” What they meant is that since we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we should do everything within our power to cherish each day of our lives, and to live as though this might be our last day.
If only we would live that way! So much richer and deeper would our lives be. We would surely make the time to do those things that give us pleasure. We would more often reach out to our spouses and our children and our grandchildren and hold them close and tight. If we knew that this might be our last day, we would surely turn away from petty worries, jealousies and resentments. We would realize the folly of our unrelenting pursuit of more and bigger, and we would fill our hearts and our minds with things that really matter.
That is the spiritual and moral challenge of Rosh Hashanah: that we emerge from this time of soul-searching with a renewed perspective on the possibilities and opportunities that are yet before us, if only we will hold life dearer than we do.
For all of us, Rosh Hashanah means that we are granted yet another chance at living; that it’s not too late to become something more. Yes, change is hard, especially the older we become. But may we do it for the sake of those we love and for the sake of those who love us. May we do it for our own sake also.
From my house to yours: may this be a good, healthy and fulfilling new year. Yes, life is the most precious of all gifts. May we use it well.
Rabbi David Greenberg