Curiously enough, the month of September coincides in its entirety with the Jewish month of Elul. September 1, 2019 is also Elul 1, 5779. It means that this entire month is dedicated to preparing for the High Holy Days. What does it mean to prepare? What does Rosh Hashanah mean to you? I find these holidays both exhilarating and utterly exhausting. The exhaustion, I find, is deeply connected to the demand to assess our lives. What is important? What really matters? How am I utilizing this one life that is mine alone?
I want to share some responses to these questions that come straight from the brilliant Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who served as Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and now writes extensively on Jewish themes.
In the Rosh Hashana Machzor that he edited, he asks: “What does Rosh Hashana say to us? Of what is it a reminder? How can it transform our lives?” He gives responses worth of our reflection this month. They are, in brief:
1. Life is short. However much life expectancy has risen, we will never in one lifetime be able to achieve everything we might wish to achieve.
2. Life itself, each day, every breath we take, is the gift of God. Life is not something we may take for granted.
3. We are free. Judaism is the religion of the free human being freely responding to the God of freedom.
4. Life is meaningful. We are not mere accidents of matter, generated by a universe that came into being for no reason.
5. Life is not easy. Judaism does not see the world through rose-tinted lenses.
6. Life may be hard, but it can still be sweet.
7. Our life is the single greatest work of art we will ever make.
What does Rosh Hashana say to you?