Rosh Hashanah has various names: it is known as Yom Ha-zikaron (the Day of Remembering) and Yom Ha-Din (the Day of Judgment). On the threshold of a New Year, we look back and assess the past year, to help us understand what the new year might be like.
This Rosh Hashanah will for many of our communities be the first time post pandemic that we will all gather in great numbers, without restrictions and we are looking forward to the sweetness and joy that comes with being together in person in our communities.
However, the year we leave behind does not immediately promise a better future. There is much to worry about: the exceptional heatwaves of the summer confirm the pressing nature of Climate Change and remind us of our personal and communal responsibilities towards the environment.
The War in Ukraine reminds some of us of our own ancestral homes, and the lived experiences of displacement of previous generations and has reawakened our obligation to look after refugees and the dispossessed. It has also come among the worrying cost of living rise, which has pushed many households to the brink of poverty. It too calls out to us to help alleviate the hardship of others by giving tzedakah, or to foodbanks and to offer of ourselves volunteering wherever we can.
We read in our prayer books: ‘on Rosh Hashanah we consider how judgement is formed, and on Yom Kippur we consider how it is sealed, but repentance and prayer and good deeds can change the harshness in our destiny’. Although this past year leaves us with many worries for the year to come, belonging to communities that are part of a Reform Movement which is dedicated to Tikkun Olam, (repairing the world), gives us a voice, and purpose in a changing world.
When things are broken, they do not have to remain that way, we can turn things around. Teshuvah means ‘repentance’, but also ‘turning’, and as a Movement we are committed to help turn things around and to respond when response is needed. To reach out to refugees, to help combat climate change, and commit ourselves to a more sustainable, kinder society, starting with our own communities, and so ensure that 5783 will be truly good and sweet year.
Shanah tovah um’tukkah
Rabbi Kathleen Middleton and Rabbi James Baaden, co-Chairs of The Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors