Rosh Hashana 2016 ראש השנה

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"Each person is required to write his or her own 'Book of Life'. On the Day of Judgment, I simply ratify what has been written" Midrash

Dear Friends, dear Partners,

It is our great pleasure to share with you as we do every year the thoughts always renewed of R. Adin Steinsaltz (Even Israel) on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana).
We hope that they will help you to better prepare yourself for this upcoming year and that they will enrich you as they are enriching us.

May you all be blessed with a happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous new year.

Joëlle & Gad

Greetings from The Matanel Foundation for Rosh HaShana 5777

Every year that comes to us for good not only marks a particular time, a specific number of days, but it also has its own essence, its own character. Numbers that determine time are like numbers that measure physical distance. Theoretically, mathematically, these numbers could be gauged randomly, yet when we go somewhere, we know that every kilometer along the way is not only a kilometer that measures distance, but one that encompasses certain features: avenues, mountains, potholes or flowers. Also in the course of time, a year has a particular character, like the terrain of a geographical distance. It is true that a year is the continuation of the past and that it turns to the future, but what it comprises belongs to that particular year. We cannot know in advance what the year will bring to the world, in general, or to individuals, in particular, but we can express our wishes for the coming year and also to a certain extent prepare for it.

It is appropriate to make basic preparations every year that consist of soul searching concerning the past—the previous year or years—gathering memories of the occurrences in our lives and what we did during that year. Soul searching entails more than collecting facts; it also involves examining our conscience with regard to our motives and our values. We can sometimes recall good and beautiful experiences that occurred during the year with a sense of satisfaction, and remember problems and disasters with sorrow, sometimes regretting with the perspective of time what we did. It is not incidental that the first days of the Jewish year are called “days of judgment,” which refer to a judgment in heaven and in this world of our deeds. Therefore we must not only stand before the “Supreme Judge of the entire world,” but to a certain extent, we should also act as our own judges, not simply to feel deep remorse and sorrow, but also to decide to change our ways.
To the extent that the future is linked to the past, we still have a certain degree of free will—the freedom to choose to do things differently. In the Hebrew language, the word “shana” has two different meanings. One meaning is to repeat itself, the recurrence of things, of repeating themselves over time. The second meaning comprehends the significance of change whereby things do not simply repeat themselves, but change over time.

The most extraordinary gift that the Almighty bestowed on humanity is the freedom of choice, which allows a person, and perhaps even obliges a person, to change. Our sages have said that the Almighty does not disparage His creatures when we recite the prayers, “remembering that we are dust,” but makes allowances for the fact that even if we would like to, we are not always able to make the changes we desire. “The smallest will increase a thousand fold” is a blessing, perhaps also a wish. It does not always comes to fruition, but we are advised to make every effort to do what we are capable of doing with the hope that we can enhance and strengthen our good qualities, that we can change for the sake of those around us, maybe also change the world in significant ways. Perhaps it is not worth making grandiose decisions to change what is beyond our control. Even if a person wants to be an angel, this is not within the realm of possibility. However, a person can be a better person. Ultimately, in one way or another over the years, everyone hopes to have the opportunity to do many things in the future.

It is therefore advisable that those who resolve to make decisions try to think not only about what they want to do, but about what they are able to do. The things that they realistically decide to do may not be spectacular, however, if they accomplish their good resolutions, the accumulated results of even small deeds will be invaluable. Thus our sages said, when a person is facing a large mountain that he in effect is supposed to move, by taking one stone at a time, it is possible to move it; and if one places one stone on top of another, it is possible to build a grand building. “Who scorns a day of small beginnings?” It is of course good and desirable to aspire to greatness, to dream great dreams, but in order to achieve them, it is necessary to simply work hard. By persistently doing one’s best, a person will go far and reach great heights.

May you have a good and prosperous new year of spiritual and worldly achievements, and may we all be blessed with abundant good in general and individually,

Adin Steinsaltz