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A time to create the community you want

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What’s the state of our community? Where are we headed? What does our future hold? In a certain way, these are unhelpful questions to ask because they put us in a passive mindset. Allow me to explain.

There’s a natural human need to predict the future. We want to know what’s going to happen. We feel this need most acutely over Rosh Hashanah, when we have a deep sense of our vulnerability and reflect on Hashem’s decrees for us in the year ahead.

The problem is that when we’re preoccupied with prediction, we think passively. We wonder what the future holds, looking on helplessly, pondering what’s in store for us. It’s vital that we turn this on its head. Rather than passively anticipating the year ahead, we need to create it ourselves, as if on a blank canvas.

There’s a lot out of our control and in the hands of Hashem. But who we are, the values and qualities of the families we nurture and the community we build, these are all in our hands.

Rosh Hashanah is the day we commemorate the creation of the first human beings. As we say in our Rosh Hashanah davening, “Hayom harat olam” (Today the world was created), which our sages teach us refers to the creation of Adam and Eve. On Rosh Hashanah, as part of our divine mandate to be creators like G-d, we create ourselves anew.

The journey of self-creation begins with us, then ripples outwards in ever-expanding circles of impact. And our guide for how to achieve this is the divine blueprint for creation – Torah wisdom and mitzvahs. Every year on Rosh Hashanah, we assess our lives in terms of this blueprint, and we’re given the opportunity to reimagine ourselves and our community.

The key is to realise that our community is not something static – it’s a living, breathing thing, constantly changing. This realisation will help us move from describing the state of our community to actively shaping it. Working together, instead of passively predicting the future, we can actively create it.

So what kind of community do we want in the year ahead? What are our opportunities to fulfil this vision for our community? What are the obstacles standing in our way? I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions, and would like to share my own thoughts and feelings in a special State of the Community address to reflect on where we are, and share a vision for our future.

In the build-up to the event, as I attempt to formulate my thoughts on these matters, I want to hear your views on the state of our community. What do you see as our main difficulties and challenges, our strengths and weaknesses? What should we be doing more of? What should we be doing less of? How, in your view, do we chart the way forward to create the best possible version of our community? I look forward to hearing your views.

This is a time of year when our creative energies are at their most potent; when we look back at where we’ve come from, but also look forward to where we want to go; when we have a chance to build new foundations based on bold aspirations, not just as individuals, but as a community. Attempting to predict the future of our community, or anxiously wondering from the sidelines what will happen, is by definition an exercise in passivity.

Let us move off the side lines and get involved. Let us all work together, turning our energies towards creating the kind of future we want. We have the blueprint in our hands: coming together as a community, with honesty and humility, with innovation and creativity, with positivity and faith in Hashem. We need to live these values, and harness every resource we have with optimism and courage to meet the challenges we face.

May Hashem bless all our efforts, and inscribe and seal our special community for a sweet, healthy, prosperous and peaceful 5783.

  • The chief rabbi’s State of the Community address will be held on Sunday, 2 October, at Great Park Shul after mincha, which will commence at 17:30. For booking, or to send the chief rabbi your views, email

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