“Let thine awe be manifest in all thy works and reverence for thee fill all creation. May all thy children unite in one fellowship to do thy will with a perfect heart while iniquity shall close its mouth and all wickedness vanish like smoke when you remove the dominion of tyranny from the earth.” These words are part of the High Holiday Amidah and are said a total of eight times on Rosh Hashanah and five times on Yom Kippur. They depict a kind of Eden in which all is in harmony and all wickedness vanishes away harmlessly like smoke fading away into nothingness. Yet the world is far from this idyllic picture. In the last years especially our world has grown more and more troubled. All over there is the threat of war and strife. Even within our own country there is violence and the threat of violence. The real world seems to be quite opposite of the sentiments expressed in this prayer. Are these words we recite just an empty dream? All of us long for the world pictured in these words, and yearning and longing are powerful forces, whether or not what we hope for ever occurs. They give us hope and they keep us from despair. Longing for a better day gives us the strength to keep going until perhaps we see a better day. If the world does not match up to our expectations, that should only motivate us to work harder and believe more fervently. This message is both cosmic and personal. Rosh Hashanah tells us that no matter how deficient we sometimes feel, we should not give up striving for perfection. It tells us that no matter how many mistakes we may have made in life or in our relationships, we should never give up. It tells us that no matter how distant we feel from G-d, we can still work on our spirituality, and no matter how unjust or strife-torn the world is, working for peace and for justice is still important. Perhaps the message that we most need in these troubled times is best expressed in the words of the great Hassidic teacher Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: “Yidn zait zaoch nisnt meyaesh. Jews never despair.”
Lashanah tova tikatevu ve’techatemu.
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