A community that prays together

  • ChiefRabbi
So much has happened in the year since last Rosh Hashanah. Many members of our community have celebrated wonderful simchas. And yet, at the same time, many have suffered much pain, some through the loss of loved ones, others through illness or other challenges.

To be part of community means that we share in and feel each other’s joy and pain. To be part of a community is to look around us and feel deep empathy with other people and what they are going through.

And especially, at this time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our Sages teach us that by connecting ourselves to community and connecting ourselves to the plight of others in kindness, we achieve great merit before Hashem.

We need to move beyond feeling for others to action, to doing something for them. By attending a simcha, such as a wedding, and dancing and fully participating, we create joy for the simcha families.

And at a time of loss or illness, when we visit, we bring the comfort of our presence and words to those who are in situations of pain. Let us all look out for opportunities to perform acts of kindness and to reach out to as many people as possible in our community to share with them what they are going through.

One of the most powerful things we can do for somebody else is to daven for them, to pray. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer. Our Sages teach us that G-d willingly gave us power to change the world through our prayers.

We can and must turn to Him for our every need and request. Each day at the end of the weekday Amidah, just before we take the three steps back, we have an opportunity to mention our own particular needs in our own words before G-d.

The Amidah covers all of the general needs of the individual and community and indeed the entire Jewish people and the world. But at the end of the Amidah we have the opportunity to ask for things specifically in our own words - and we should seize that opportunity. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are important times to pray for a good and sweet new year.

When we pray, we don’t only pray for ourselves, we pray for others. That is why all of our prayers are formulated in the plural, because we daven on behalf of everybody.

The experience of praying for others opens our hearts to them and demonstrates great kindness. We need to feel and think about the needs of others and to pray for them. In this spirit there will, please G-d, be a special unity prayer service for a good year for the community, taking place on the Fast of Gedaliah at Yeshiva College on Sunday, September 24.

It is an opportunity to come together in a true spirit of community unity, in a spirit of love and caring for one another, and in the spirit of deep empathy. It is an opportunity to pray for those who are sick, that they should be healed, to pray for the comfort of those who are in mourning and to pray for all, that the year ahead should be filled with simchas and nachas.

This is what it means to be part of a community. This is what it means to believe in the power of prayer. This is what true unity means. Let’s stand together. Let us all make an effort to attend this service, but most importantly of all, let us all make an effort to harness the power of prayer now during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and, indeed, throughout the coming year as a way of changing the world for the good.

May Hashem bless us all with a good and sweet year, filled with His abundant goodness.

The community unity prayer service will take place on Sunday September 24, at 17:15 at the Yeshiva College Shul.



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