Community Torah Corner, September 15, 2023

Rabbi Lindsay Goldman
Rabbi in Residence, Upper School
Golda Och Academy
Rosh Hashanah

The high holiday season begins with Tisha B’av according to Rabbi Alan Lew, of blessed memory, a Conservative rabbi best known for establishing the world's first Jewish meditation center. Only from ashes can we completely rebuild. Seven weeks before Rosh Hashanah we commemorate the destruction of the temple. Traditionally we believe that the temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred. Hatred leads to so much loss and violence in our world. Being Jewish means being resilient, building ourselves back up when people try to break us down.

Rabbi Lew says that the only questions to ask in the face of any catastrophe are:
What is my responsibility for this?
How am I complicit in this?
How can I prevent it from happening again?

These are the questions that we must ask about each and every one of our relationships, during the month of Elul, a time of deep introspection. Only through asking these hard questions can we rebuild our relationships with others and rebuild ourselves. 

One of my favorite aspects about our tradition is that we believe in second chances. There is always time to become a better person. We have until the time of our deaths to do teshuva. There are four new years according to the Talmud. The 15th of Shvat, Tu B’shvat, the yew year for trees. The first of Nisan is the new year for the reigns of Jewish kings. The first of Elul, is the new year for the tithing of cattle and the 1st of Tishrei is the new year for seasons. We also have our own firsts in our lives: the first day of school, work or camp; the first day of summer or fall; and the first time we step into a new role as spouse or parent. We have so many firsts, so many chances to reinvent ourselves. 

Being Jewish means always holding sadness and joy. We remember the destruction of the temple even on our own wedding day as we stand underneath the chuppah. As we commemorate the devastating loss of 9/11 as Americans, we look ahead to a time of joy this high holiday season as Jews. This holiday season, I hope we find time to ask ourselves Rabbi Lew’s questions, to reinvent ourselves. May we all enjoy delicious foods, meaningful reflection, and time spent with loved ones. Shana Tova U’metuka! May you and your families have a sweet new year.