A close friend of mine had her son’s bar Mitzvah celebration this summer in Israel. Before the date, there were many hours of worry and discussion about how to deal with sirens, safety and touring. They had to consider all sort of possible complications. One was that several planes arriving in Israel were stuck in a “holding pattern”, unable to land because of the rocket attacks; the family had to consider that they might be re-routed to another country, and might have to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah in an unexpected venue. After much soul searching, they broke loose of their own “holding pattern”, and chose to go forward with the plans in Israel.
As we enter into this period of self-reflection and celebration of the High holidays, we need to ask ourselves about our personal “holding patterns”. We are reminded once a year to break out of the routine and reflect on our lives. The sounds of the shofar are heard from the beginning of the month of ELUL to the end of Yom Kippur as part of our wake up call. Maimonides (1135-1204) says about the shofar that “it contains an allusion. It is as if [the shofar’s call] is saying: Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator. Those who forget the truth in the vanities of time and throughout the entire year, devote their energies to vanity and emptiness which will not benefit or save: Look to your souls. Improve your ways and your deeds…”
This is a call for us to break out of our “holding pattern”. Have we done anything new this past year that improved our lives? Did we find time to do something for our own personal and spiritual growth? Did we find something new in Judaism to connect to or to explore more in depth?
Sometimes “holding patterns” are important, because they give us stability, purpose and routine. But on the other hand, “holding patterns” can be an excuse for laziness and continued mediocrity. The purpose of the High Holidays is to remind us to wake up and find ways to change for the better.
How does one go about making lasting changes? I believe that we need to think about change in terms of time, place, and personal values.
Sometimes making a change is just about prioritizing and rearranging our time schedule. The demands on our time today are greater than ever, but do we ever give ourselves opportunities to think, evaluate and just learn something new? Do we stop enough to nourish our minds, bodies and souls?
Other times we can change our place. It can be about taking a new route to get to our destination or actually going to places where we have never been. Going to synagogue, volunteering in a new venue or organization are just part of the ways we can change our place.
Finally, Rosh Hashana comes to remind us that it is never too late to re-evaluate our own personal values. Often we need to change our focus to reflect our personal needs. We need to allow ourselves the courage to question our present values and make the changes necessary to our daily lives which reflect these new ideals.
Getting out of a holding pattern is another way of looking at the process we call teshuva or repentance. This is our purpose on the High Holidays with the hope of making our lives more meaningful.
At our assembly this year, we heard the sounds of the shofar, a beautiful story from Rabbi Scheier, and inspiring songs by each grade.
I want to thank all of the families who helped to design our Shana Tova bulletin board in our entrance. I invite everyone to come in a see our school’s extraordinary and creative projects with their inspirational messages for the land and people of Israel as well as Jews around the world.
May your family be blessed with good health and happiness for the New Year.
Shana Tova Tikatevu Vetechatemu.