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  • Andrew Roland

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776

Shanah Tovah, how joyful is to share together the first moments of this new year, of this new opportunity to do, to grow, to change, to do better. Welcome.

For almost a year I had written down in the notes of my computer a statistical fact. Almost a year ago I watched the Harry Potter actress Emma Watson address the United Nations on the issue of feminism and gender equality, she mentioned a terrible fact. Listen well: In the United Kingdom, suicide is the biggest killer of men between the ages of 20 to 49, more than road accidents, cancer and heart disease. Suicide! Miss Watson related this to the expectations born of a patriarchal society and she might be right. What strikes me is the fact that so many men feel they don’t matter, they are not worthy, their life is unimportant.

I am afraid you could misinterpret this same idea from the liturgy of the High Holidays. We refer to G-d all the time as our King, our Father, what makes us children and servants, striping us of responsibility, making us passive, not agents of our own life. This is wrong.

We could have the same problem with a prayer that appears in the Talmud, in the Tractate of Brachot. We are told that the Scholar Rava used to say after the Amidah the following: Elohai, ad she lo notzarti eini kedai, veachshav she notzarti keilu lo notzarti. My G-d, until I was created I was worthless and now that I was created it is as if I was not created. We could have the same problem if it was not thanks to Rabbi Abraham Itzchak Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Rabbi Kook rewrote this prayer in the following manner: My G-d, before I was created, before I was conceived, I was unworthy, nothing, that’s true. Now that I was created, now that I am alive, now that I am here, my biggest sin is that sometimes I continue to act as if I was not created.

Most of our sins are because we don’t take our purpose seriously. Don’t like the word sin because sounds too religious, too frum? No problem, I will rephrase.

Most of our mistakes, the serious ones I mean, are because we don’t take our lives seriously enough. We matter. We are important. We are unique, there has never been one of us in the World and after we leave it there will never be another one like us. Think about that for a moment. Whatever we can do and we don’t, there will never be another one like us to do it. We are so important.

The High Holidays are the time of the year to reflect what are we doing with the most valuable resource we have: time, the time of our life. The clock is ticking and we have one life, as far as we know, to do whatever is that we suppose to do. Whether we believe we are given a purpose or that we give ourselves a purpose, in any case we must feel compelled to fulfill this purpose.

Tonight we begin the most important part of this marathon we call the High Holidays. The month of Elul is behind, that was the first stage. In ten days we will meet again for the last day of it: Yom Kippur. Today is Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of humankind according to tradition and therefore is the time to think about what are we doing as individuals, as community, as society, as humankind. What can we do better? What did we manage to improve from last year? Do we like the balance?

Tomorrow, when we listen to the calling sounds of the Shofar, the alarm clock for our soul, let’s remember that we matter, that we are important, that we are unique. And because we matter, because we are important, because we are unique, we must make the most of our lives, we need Rosh Hashanah to think about this, about our time and how do we use it. About how did we do last year, about what is our plan for this New Year and beyond. Let’s decide here and now, everyone with himself, everyone with herself, that we will strive to make this new year spectacular, fantastic, the best of our lives. We will do so because we cannot allow ourselves not to, because we… we matter.

Shanah Tovah

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