Lea Mühlstein, a fifth year rabbinical student at Leo Baeck College, shares her thoughts and greetings for Rosh Hashanah. She is delighted to be leading High Holyday services this year, as in the previous year, at Menorah Synagogue: Cheshire Reform Congregation.
It is a great honour to be given this opportunity to wish you all shanah tovah – a good and happy new year. The American Conservative Rabbi Dov Elkins points out the connection between the Hebrew words year (shanah) and to change (lishnot), which share a common Hebrew root: shin, nun and heh. Further, the same root also denotes repetition as in Maimonides famous work the Mishneh Torah – the repetition of the Torah.
Thus, Rabbi Elkins teaches that a shanah tovah, a good year, is a year of change, of doing things differently. And it is also a year of repetition, of relearning the old lessons of our ancient past; a year of building on good practice and of grounding new developments in our sacred Jewish tradition.
We all felt the wind of change blowing during the last year. The world has witnessed turmoil and renewal in the Middle East as the Arab spring spread across the region. While the opportunity of millions being freed from oppressive dictators should certainly be reason for joy and celebration, we also look at the developments with anxiety and fear about what this might mean for Israel. And sometimes we might even be tempted to wish that everything would just remain the same as these external changes and their consequences are out of our control.
But the internal changes that we have witnessed within our movement remind us that change is a wonderful opportunity for renewal. We are filled with confidence and hope that the new leadership at the Movement for Reform Judaism, at Leo Baeck College and in our congregations across the country will allow the Movement to grow stronger and more vibrant in years to come; looking forward while remaining true to our own history.
May the year 5772 be a sweet and happy new year for you and your families, blessed with love, happiness, health and success. And may the changes in your lives and in your community be as sweet as the apple dipped in honey but also bold as the sound of the shofar. Shanah tovah!