While Rosh Hashanah does not require a list of hastily conceived resolutions, it does challenge us to rethink what we have done, who we are and, most importantly, where we want to be.
What was the past year like? I can only tell you about mine.
My husband and I (no royal reference intended, but how else do you say it?) celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I hardly remember the ceremony, although we will never forget the late Rabbi Samuel Schafler, who performed it. We never got to eat our dinner, with all the hugging and the envelopes pressed into our hands – which my mother-in-law (z’l) quickly stored away.
Did we imagine then, that 50 years later we would be celebrating it with friends and family in what seemed a foreign land? Of course not. Did we imagine the joys and heartaches that would follow? Nope. We have been happy beyond our dreams, and blessed with loving family and friends who continue to share our lives.
This past year, to celebrate, we travelled to Europe, meeting people whose communities go back 2,300 years (Rome) and people who have restarted an ancient community long suppressed (Barcelona).
We’ve had some sorrow, losing old friends. We’ve had great joy, watching our children flourish and granddaughter grow.
We’ve had the usual aches and pains of aging, unimagined by that smiling couple cutting a cake 50 years back.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote to his old friend John Adams as they both aged, “Our machines have been running for 70 or 80 years, and we must expect that… here a pivot, there a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring, will be giving way: and however we may tinker them up for a while, all will at length surcease motion.” We can expect more tinkering as the years progress.
What about the coming year?
In Canada, we have the privilege of living openly as Jews without fear of the darkness of hatred. Yes, some people will always despise us, but we know that a democratic system gives us the right and the privilege to express our Judaism. While this was not always so in Canada, sorry to say, today we have what so many other peoples lack.
We are able to help Jews – and others – here and abroad because our general affluence gives us those resources. Our community can always do more, and should, for the 14 per cent who live in poverty, or the disabled who still need our back-up support. We have a way to go to live up to our ideals when it comes to First Nations, and I am so, so happy to see that, at least in Vancouver, the Jewish community and individuals have stepped forward.
We have the opportunity this year to choose our leaders for the next four years. Sometimes I fail to appreciate this great gift, denied to so many.
At the Rosh Hashanah table, we ask each person what they hope for the coming year. I admit to rushing the season a bit, but I went ahead and asked some to-be-guests what they see for 5776.
Some of us have given up hoping for peace in the Middle East, at least in the near future. While things look bleak on the foreign scene, interestingly, people focused closer to home: on what are things that seem do-able in our lives and our communities.
“We are so fortunate that each of us has a parent living, able to enjoy the great-grandchildren. We pray they can continue in the coming year.”
“Better understanding among employers about how to work with and support people with special needs.”
“Health for the children.”
“Affordable Jewish education for our children.”
“Our children to be healthy, good people.”
“While holding to Halachah, when we come to a fraught situation, let the prophet’s voice decide.” (Tosefta Kippurim, 1:12)
Shanah tovah, metukah uvrachah.