Drasha Rosh Hashana 5781 – 18.09.2020
We begin tonight a new year again, year 5781 in the Jewish calendar. What a year it has been! We started off quite normal, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Chanukka, by Purim it started getting a bit shaky, by then we weren’t sure yet what’s exactly is happening, but that was all BC, before corona, we are in very different times. Right after that it all started to close down, boarders, stores, flights and what represented life for us before that.
I came here yesterday by flight from Berlin after not being on an airplane for over 6 months, for the first time I was suddenly disconnected from everything that is going on and had the time to be with myself, without being interrupted by calls, WhatsApp messages, emails and Facebook, just me and my thoughts, distanced from all the people around me wearing masks but with a new feeling, a feeling of mutual responsibility, a feeling that we are all in this together,. If I’m sitting further away from you and you are sitting further away from me, it’s not because I don’t want to be near you, it’s because we are both doing our share, we are both being responsible in not spreading the virus, I’m not suspecting that you are sick, it might be me actually that is sick, we may never know. Yes, we might end up with our ears a bit closer to the front of our faces after this is all over but we know we have to do what we have to do in such times.
The virus brings us closer as humans because it doesn’t differentiate between sexes, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, there are millions of invisible strings that connect us all together as humans from all over the world, and we can clearly see, in places where the rules are kept, there are less sick people, less dead people, and so people are able to work relatively normal and go about with their lives and the impact to other countries around are also clear, before the holidays times the numbers in Germany were lower, now that people went all over Europe on vacation, the numbers went up.
But I didn’t come here to talk about corona, this is all we are talking about for so many months, it’s the most boring topic already, we are even getting used to it, the only thing that’s relevant to us, is if we can learn something from it. Today we celebrate the birth of our world. The Midrash in Kohelet Rabah tells us, when God created Adam, he took him around the garden of Eden and showed him all the trees there and said to him: “look and see my work how beautiful and great it is, and everything that I created, I created only for you! Be careful not to ruin and destroy my world, for if you will ruin it, there will be no one to fix it after you”.
Today is Rosh Hashanah, our new year! A time that we make resolutions for a fresh start, how can we make a fresh starts in such times of uncertainty? In times where things are changing so rapidly and on such short notice? Among the many Shana Tova wishes that I got was one that said, “I wish for you that the upcoming year should be one where you can plan at least one week in advance.
Wouldn’t it be so cool if we all just woke up and realised that this was all just a dream? Imagine that for a second, we wake up tomorrow morning to a world like we had nine months ago. Such simple times those were. But apparently we needed a wake up call, we got so caught up in our lives and needed something massive to put our lives in perspective,
so we can be thankful for all that we have, things that we took for granted until now, like being able to fly wherever and whenever we want, going to parties and festivals, cramp up in our synagogue to pray together, and now all of the sudden we have to start calculating distances and square meters, wear masks, wash hands and all that. But if we don’t learn something from all this then we just suffered all this time for nothing, and that would be a real shame.
The only biblical Mitzvah we have on Rosh Hashana is to blow the Shofar. Maimonides wrights in the rules of Teshuva, that although the Torah doesn’t give us a reason for blowing the Shofar, there’s a Remez, a hidden hint to wake us up from our sleep, to awaken us from our all year-round doings and remember why we are here so we can go in better ways.
The Talmud on Rosh Hashana gives us another reason why we blow from a sheep’s horn on this day. By the story when Avraham was ready to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, after the angel told him not to, he sacrificed the sheep who’s horns were caught in the bushes, so in order to remind God of that, that we are children of the great Avraham who was so loyal to Gad, we blow the Shofar. But does God need our reminder? Is he forgetful sometimes?
But like I said before from the Midrash, everything we do, everything that happens, is for us, so that we remember our history, so that we remember where come from, and mainly, that we remember to learn something from what we have gone through. What we needed now both, a wakeup call on the one hand, and strong remembrance of what we have done until now on the other hand.
So tomorrow when we blow the Shofar, let’s keep all that in mind, let’s take a moment, in silence and reflect, be with ourselves, think about what we have learned this year, how we should prioritize our time and resources in the proper places and with the right people, how we can become better people with more concentration of what’s going on around us and around the world.
I wish for us all the best possible and sweetest year to come, that we all stay safe, healthy and alive, a year filled with happiness and joy, a year of prosperity and success, a year of fulfillment of all our desires, a year of peace among nations and peace among ourselves, a year that we should be able to look back at and be proud of. Shannah Tovah umetukkah!