The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is an incredibly powerful time in our Jewish calendar. A time that we take stock of the year that was, and connect to our hopes and aspirations for the year to come. It is also a time where we connect even deeper to our Judaism. We connect deeper to our values of resilience and hope. Throughout our history, Jews have experienced extensive trauma and catastrophe far beyond this global pandemic, and we have survived, and thrived. We have repeatedly breathed new life into the Jewish people. From trauma, we have had to heal. We have found ways to cultivate resilience, both individually and communally. Through every tragedy, we have risen more resilient and more determined to overcome and celebrate life. This is the Jewish way. As is recited when we return the Torah to the Ark,
הֲשִׁיבֵנו יהוה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם (hashivenu adonay elekha venashuvah Hadesh yamenu kekedem): "Help us turn to You, and we shall return. Renew our lives as in days of old." Resilience encoded in Jewish life.
This Rosh Hashanah, I would love to be writing about adjusting to the new normal, or how 5781 will begin where we left off back in late February, almost oblivious to the seismic changes our world has experienced since this pandemic struck every aspect of our daily lives. But I can't. The reality is that each day brings new challenges of the "new normal" and we are a far cry from returning to pre-Covid days.
And yet, we have learned so much during these past seven months. As individuals, we have learned to adapt and innovate. We have learned to use the internet to connect, transact, celebrate Jewish life cycle events and mourn our losses. We have spent more quality time with family and less at an office behind a desk. As a community, we have learned to work together. To count on one another and trust in ways we previously did not. We learned together we are stronger and that our resilience, while individual, relies on the collective in order to rise and overcome.
So as we bring in 5781, we must take the time to recognize and mourn our losses. We must take stock. And then, as we have for generations, we will rise again, renewed and more resilient. Committed to our values and teachings. We will Renew our lives as in days of old חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם – perhaps not literally, but in a more committed and meaningful way.
Finally, as we enter these days of T'shuva, we remind ourselves that we are still in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. We, as a Jewish community, have always been leaders for those around us, and we must continue to do so with even greater vigilance and intent during these times. We must comply with the regulations of public health as well as פיקוח נפש (Pikuach nefesh) – the Jewish principle that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule is our duty. We must adhere to this principle in all our celebrations, both during the upcoming holidays and lifecycle events. Let us continue to be the light unto the nations and use our own teachings to guide our actions.
Wishing you and your loved ones a Shana Tova Umetuka. May the brightest days of this past year be the darkest of 5781. Wishing you continued health, safety and peace.
שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה וּגמר חתימה טובה
Yair Szlak, LL.B
Chief Executive Officer, Federation CJA