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Signs of Hope - D'var Torah for Rosh Hashana, 5781

09/17/2020 11:11:34 AM


In his bestseller The Gifts of the Jews, writer Thomas Cahill points out that Judaism's unique outlook liberated the world from the perception of human history as an endless round of birth, growth, decay and death to one that recognized the possibility, indeed the inevitability, of growth, evolution and progress.   In other words, if Judaism can be boiled down to a single word, that word would be Tikvah -- Hope -- as in Israel's national anthem:
As long as within our hearts, the Jewish soul yearns and our eyes lift toward Zion,
Then will our hope never be lost; the hope of two thousand years...
Hope rises like an undying flame; no fuel of this earth is needed to feed the eternal fire that we taught the world to kindle.
But as we begin the new year, it is good to keep in the heart and mind some sparks of hope and blessing already rising towards us in the year ahead.

  • This week we saw something incredible: two of Israel's erstwhile enemies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signed peace agreements with Israel, thanks to US involvement. Hearing Hatikvah playing in town squares where Israeli flags were burned, seeing the excitement in all three peoples and countries looking toward cooperation and collaboration are tremendous signs of hope. Whatever political motivations or other motives were behind these moves, the fact of peace and signs of a Middle East moving toward reconciliation, including our Palestinian neighbors, have the potential to be powerful positive developments. It is too early to say whether these accords will help that troubled region turn the corner, but for right now, the Abraham Accords are true milestones.
  • Vaccine trials, including the AstraZeneca testing which was resumed today, are on track to, G-d willing, create a vaccine by the end of the civil year. That being said, the best bet to control the pandemic is still social distancing and masks. We can be grateful that our home state leads the nation in lowering infection rates, showing our fellow Americans that it can be done and that life can continue even as we limit exposure and make the needed adjustments to protect ourselves and our community.
  • Even on the climate front there is reason to hope. Fossil fuel usage and demand is decreasing steadily as alternative renewable sources of energy and technology gains market share. Is a hybrid or electric vehicle in your future?
  • Awareness of the ongoing power of racism, anti-Semitism and hate is growing and people of good will, motivated by the ideals and founding documents of our country, are stepping forward to bring greater inclusion into the American experience. This June, New Jersey is adding a new State holiday: Juneteenth, June 19th, the day that slavery ended in our country, as a day of celebration, recognition and awareness, an opportunity for interfaith and inter-community connection and dialogue.
  • In the Jewish world, synagogues and federations -- including Adath Shalom -- have faced the challenge of the pandemic to increase outreach, education and services of all kinds in order to reach Jews of all ages, denominations, levels of observance and background as never before. These are tough times in the Jewish world, but also exciting ones of innovation.

While the above signs are certainly positive, they are only the beginning. Hope needs to begin with each of us. The seed may have sprouted, but it is up to us to water it through our care, commitment, giving and involvement. L'shana Tova Tikateivu V'tichateimu! May you be written and inscribed for a Good Year in every sense of the word!
With abundant blessings --
Rabbi Rudin

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781