Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Better Late than Never

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Operation Inspiration

OK, what I’m about to say may shock you, but it has to be done. The year ahead will be planned for you not by your social secretary or by your spouse. It won’t even be your employer’s decision. Nope, it will be planned for you by Hashem, on Rosh Hashana.

Yes, on this one magnificent day, (even though it’s so long that it spans two of our calendar days,) Hashem sets the calendars and appointments for every one of His creations. Think you’re going on vacation on December 28? Actually, His calendar says you’ll be attending a wedding that evening. Have your mind set on a quiet evening at home on February 13? It could be that you’ll be attending a shiva house, where it may be quiet, but not what you were planning. Oh, and that day at the amusement park next summer? Hashem’s planner shows you in Gan Eden at that point. You might want to hold off on purchasing tickets.

Of course, these dates and circumstances are not intended for anyone in particular. They are merely for illustration purposes to get us thinking about what really happens on Rosh Hashana. Hashem decides who will live and who will die. He decides who will get stuck in traffic and who will buy a house. He decides whether you will have good health or need to visit doctors. Guess what? Two years ago, on Rosh Hashana, Hashem decided the world would be visited by a little thing called Coronavirus, aka COVID-19. He decided who it would affect and how, and if we’d known then what we know now, don’t you think we might have davened just a little differently that year?

Even when we knew what was going on, by last Rosh Hashana we’d started to see improvement, and felt things were changing. We figured it couldn’t go on much longer and that 5781 would be different whether we prayed about it or not. We relied on that hypothesis so much that Hashem chose to give us resurgences, Delta variant, and continued uncertainty.

So, now that we are aware of it, we should start planning how we will daven on Rosh Hashana to avoid Hashem deciding we need this “gift” for a third straight year. We have to think about how we will change ourselves, since, of course, that is a basic theme of Teshuva, and we have to think about how we will affect others, and they us.

Let’s not forget that COVID isn’t the only thing that can affect us. It may just be the most prominent. But surely we all know people suffering other physical maladies, financial ones, or mental and emotional ones. Most likely, we know people with a combination thereof, and we count ourselves among their number too. So how can we get Hashem to change His plans for us for the coming year?

First of all, Rosh Hashana is the coronation of Hashem as our King. A good king is concerned about the welfare of his subjects and if we place our full trust in Him, Hashem will not let us down. To do so would be a Chilul Hashem. However, if, like the guy who davened for a parking space in a busy city, and when he found one said, “Thanks anyway, G-d, I found one myself,” we believe that we are the masters of our own destiny and Hashem merely plays a supporting role, then we might find ourselves in the spot where Hashem chooses to sit back and see how well we do on our own.

Second of all, we say that on Rosh Hashana, every person passes before Hashem like sheep before a shepherd. Though a shepherd cares about each lamb, he also cares about the overall wellbeing of his flock. If one sheep is sick and infecting others, or butting heads with others, the shepherd is likely to get rid of that one for the sake of the flock. We’re all Hashem’s “only child,” but so is every other man and woman. We need to think about what’s best for everyone and pray for that. Instead of thinking of ourselves, we need to think of Hashem and what is in HIS best interest. Working towards that goal will ensure we’re part of Hashem’s plan for the future and He will likely find ways to make it easier for us to achieve those goals.

One last idea I’ll throw in here is that over the past five years, we’ve seen violent machlokes divide people in areas like politics and medicine. We need to rethink the wisdom of that in light of the fact that peace is the greatest vessel for retaining Hashem’s bracha. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you’re right or that they are evil. It also doesn’t give you the right to blast anyone you choose. There are actually HALACHOS about this! The simple rule of thumb is that we are all Hashem’s children and need to get along.

I think I’ve said enough to give you something to think about this Rosh Hashana. As you say selichos this week and next, you’ll be apologizing for missing the big picture, and asking Hashem to give you a chance to be part of His team for the next 4 quarters. When you dip the apple into honey, you’ll realize that both the apple and the honey came from Hashem, and by doing what He wants you to with them, you’ll experience the sweetness He has in mind.

I’m sorry I didn’t say this last year or the year before that, but at least this time we can head into Rosh Hashana armed with this knowledge and try to get in the right mindset. By doing so, may we be inscribed, signed, and sealed in Hashem’s planner for a good year for us, all Klal Yisrael, and all of Creation.

 

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