A Time to Contemplate – Rabbi Zvi Portnoy – Shul Magazine 5775

It’s that time of year again, and I for one in some ways wish it wasn’t! Allow me to elaborate with the following anecdotal story. A plane is flying over the Atlantic. All is well until the pilot announces over the Tannoy, “I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that we are making good progress. The bad news is that we don’t know where we’re heading!” How many of us spend so much of our lives making fantastic progress but without actually having a clear idea of where we are heading?

Rosh Hashana is upon us, the clarion call of the Shofar has been blasted out after Davening each morning since Rosh Chodesh Elul. It tells us that in a few days’ time on Rosh Hashana itself the King of kings will sit in the throne of judgment, the universe will become a courtroom and that our lives will be under review. With Rosh Hashana we begin the period known as the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, 10 days of self-reckoning, 10 days of introspection, during which we ask ourselves have we as individuals fulfilled our mission as G-d’s ambassadors on earth? It is a challenging yet potentially life changing time. Without this annual exercise, our lives would most probably drift away before our eyes as we fail to direct our goals and vision towards who we truly desire to be.

Personally, I find myself with the very same check list of things which I would like to work on in my own personal development, year on year and hence my lack of enthusiasm as we reach this time of year.  Of course, it was at this time a year ago that Orly, I and the children joined as the Rav & Rebbetzen of Loughton & Chigwell District Synagogue. The year has certainly been a whirlwind, with both its ups and downs. Losing both my grandparents within a few weeks of each other was quite challenging to the say the least. Yet we as a family have been tremendously blessed and the latest Simcha, my brother Mendy’s engagement and upcoming wedding will no doubt have given my grandparents so much Nachas. For my parents with his wedding they will have managed 6 out of 9 so far, by no means an easy feat.

On a more macro level, these last few months have been an awful time for our beloved brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael, and more generally in the Middle East and across the world at large. Daily rockets, terror plots, murders, torture, genocide, it is simply horrific, and we as Jews must do whatever we can to take a stand. Indeed Rosh Hashana is fundamentally about 3 key concepts, as seen from the Tefillot which we pray on these auspicious days:

Malchiyot: Kingship – re-establishing G-d’s Kingdom on Earth

Zichronot: Remembrance – learning from the lessons of the past.

Shofarot: Blowing the shofar – not being silent when confronted by the problems of the world.

The Talmud in tractate Rosh Hashana explains that the broken note in the middle represents the sound of sadness. A broken note to mark our misery about the broken world we live in. Our rabbis explain that the Shofar’s Tekiahs (pure notes before and after the broken notes) must be longer than the Teruahs/Shevarim (broken notes). We have faith that good is greater than evil – that good will ultimately win out.

Orly and I wish you and yours a K’tiva V’chatima Tova, may you all be inscribed in the book of life for a year of good health, a year of growth and meaning, a year of blessing and success, and a year eternal peace for our community, the entire Jewish people and all of humanity. Shana Tova.