I learned a new word today, “febrile.” It was in a headline describing the financial markets. Febrile means feverish: a description of the wide swings in the Dow. As we move toward High Holydays, our economy is unsteady and some of our congregants are challenged with job searches. Know that our synagogue is committed to never letting finances be a barrier to synagogue belonging. I tell prospective congregants who are in need of special consideration in meeting membership dues that there is a time to accept support and G-d willing a time later to offer that support for others. Among our High Holyday prayers is the request for parnassah tovah- a good living. In the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah (Pirkei Avot: 4:21) – Em ein kemech ein Torah- “If there is no flour [no dough], there is no Torah.” And yet, there is a second half to the quote: “If there is no Torah, there is no flour.”
High Holydays is a time for Torah, a time to gain perspective. Perspective does not solve all of our problems, but it does allow us to appreciate what we have and to look forward with renewed strength. During this time of year, we wish each other L’shanah tovah, May it be a good new year. The Hebrew root for the word “year” is also found in the word for “change.” We are therefore also wishing each other, May it be a good change.
With the sound of the Shofar, we are called to awake, to see new possibilities. In the Torah reading of first day Rosh Hashanah, Hagar is desperate for water in the desert. The text says, “Her eyes were opened and she saw a well” (Genesis 21:19). The miracle was not the well, but her ability to suddenly see what was already before her.
Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a County (p.132) describes an uncle whose chief complaint about people was that they did not appreciate what they already had. The uncle would regularly pause and exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Vonnegut writes that he has continued to do the same and so have his sons.
As we reflect during these Days of Awe, may we remind ourselves of our blessings, and find the courage to make changes that renew and strengthen our bonds with our family, friends, our community, and the Divine. May our economy gain traction, for finances do weigh heavily upon us. May we reach out to friends and let them know of their personal worth to us. And may we know that pausing to appreciate what we have is the underpinning of a life well lived.
On behalf of my family and myself, let me wish you a Shanah Tovah.