This week’s Torah portion begins with the words: “You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal One, your G-d – your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to waterdrawer – to enter into the covenant of the Eternal One, your G-d.”(Deut 29:9-11) And so we will. This Sunday night, we will gather: members of our congregation, and of our broader community, leaders of our synagogue, and twice a year Jews, friends, family, the ones we love, alongside the ones we have never seen before. Each person will come to mark Rosh Hashanah – the beginning of the Jewish year – a chance to reflect on the year that has passed and to consider how we wish to live as Jews in the year to come.
Every year we return, every year we reflect – often on the same failings, hoping to reach higher this year, but I think that we so often miss the point. The High Holy Days aren’t about making “new year’s resolutions,” as in the secular world. We gather, we stand in our mixed multitude, to reaffirm our commitment to our Jewish connection, whether we access that through our relationships with family, community, a building, a friend group, a clergy person, a piece of liturgy, a song, or simply through the tradition of showing up year after year.
The Torah is a guidebook on how to build a relationship with the Divine. If you follow the underlying precepts, you will begin to build that partnership. The liturgy of the High Holy days is surprisingly short on promises of good behavior, but instead stresses over and over again the different kinds of relationship we have with G-d. G-d as parent, as ruler, as lover, as friend, as shepherd, and more. When we return year after year, it is to renew and reflect upon that relationship, which, if we are true to it, will lead us to act justly, and to become the best person that we are capable of being. In partnership with G-d, how could we seek to be anything less?
And so as we prepare to return, I’d like to share with you this beautiful song about our returning by Elana Arian and Noah Aronson: We Return / Hashiveinu
Shabbat Shalom and L’shanah Tovah uM’tukah!
Cantor Sally Neff