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What would we do without the days of reckoning?

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Rosh Hashanah is more than just a holiday. It’s Judgement Day. That’s why the traditional greeting at this time is not “happy holiday”, “good yom tov” or “chag sameach”, but rather, “shana tovah” or “ah gut yohr”. The heavenly court will decide our destiny and determine our fate for the new year, so we wish each other that these days of reckoning go well, and that we each be blessed with only good things for the new year.
by RABBI YOSSY GOLDMAN | Sep 26, 2019

I’ve often wondered what we would do without Rosh Hashanah. For Jews, this is the season of cheshbon hanefesh – spiritual stocktaking and making our most personal inventories. We reflect on the year gone by, our successes and shortcomings in our relationships with G-d and our fellow men and women. We try to pinpoint our failings so that we might correct them for an improved New Year to come. We make amends with those we might have been hurtful to in the year gone by.

What if we didn’t have Rosh Hashanah? Would we ever emerge from the rut we work ourselves into over a long, hard year? In all probability, we would just continue along the same tedious treadmill of life until something drastic jolted us out of our dreams. Would we ever stop to consider whether this is the way we really want to live? Would we ever pause to become pensive enough to rethink life’s game plan? More than likely, we might just keep running the rat race and, as some wise man once observed, “In the rat race, even if you win you are still a rat!”

Unless we are on the absolute fringes of Jewish life, Rosh Hashanah is a time when we are virtually compelled to sit up and take notice, to put the brakes on the mediocre merry-go-round, and shout, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” These days of awe compel us to think about life, about ourselves, our families, and our way of life. And, if necessary, do a re-think. It gives us the chance for at least an annual “compass reading” to establish our sense of direction, so that if necessary, we can alter course and re-route ourselves. How does the lady inside our GPS put it? “Recalculating…”

In our chaotic, often mad world, we ought to thank G-d for this wonderful annual opportunity. Honestly and truly, what would we do without Rosh Hashanah?

Rochel and the children join me in wishing the community – and indeed the world – shana tovah! May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous, safe, secure, and spiritually rewarding New Year.

  • Rabbi Yossy Goldman is senior rabbi at the Sydenham Highlands North Hebrew Congregation, and president of the South African Rabbinical Association.

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