These are my words at Kehillat Shivtei Yeshurun, Ramat Beit Shemesh this Rosh HaShanah. They are still pertinent today.
The words that I’d like to share with you tonight actually took me about 50 years to prepare. Tonight, as we greet Rosh HaShanah into our lives, I’d like to share with you some of the things I have learned so that we can all grow together.
The most major theme of Rosh HaShanah is the internalization that Hashem created the world. To religious people like ourselves that may seem obvious – but is it? Do we really behave as humans being created in God’s world? Are our lives Divine?
Acceptance of the belief that Hashem put us here is a life changer. He put us here. He wants us to be here. He gave us this job. He is taking care of us. Hashem has our back! He is not conspiring against us; we are not under siege. We are not fighting demons. We are here because Hashem values our life and the contribution we can make. He wired us for this job. Hashem wants us to pull something off.
On Rosh Hashanah we must remind ourselves to surrender. We didn’t make the world and we are not in control of the world. Hashem made me who I am. Hashem put me where He wants me to be. He gave me the blessings and the challenges of life. Accept them! Accept life as it is. He gave me my husband or wife, accept that! He gave me my house, my children, and my job or lack of one. He put us in Eretz Yisroel. We are here! If I’m not rich; if I’m not an athlete; if I am not an opera singer – accept that. Any sentence that begins with “When I have…” must be aborted.
Once we accept that our lives were made to order from Hashem; once we get rid of our ego’s; once we stop spending so much time looking in the mirror – we can pray! We can expect miracles! When I look at my past 60 years I realize that my whole life is a miracle. When I look at the fact that million of Jews, from America, Ethiopia, Brazil, France and the Ukraine live in Israel – isn’t that a miracle? היינו כחולמים. G-d is busy! When I consider the fact that a year ago I sat in a meeting where we decided that we really can’t build a building. Not enough money, no permission to build. Here we are building – the foundations are in, the tractors are rolling and 70% of the money we thought we couldn’t raise has been given or pledged – mostly from the people in this room! Isn’t that a miracle? I speak to so many people whose marriages were failing and today they are OK – wonder of wonders; miracle of miracles! Hashem runs the world.
Part of our purpose is to grow. Like an infant transforms to an adult; like an uneducated person can learn and an unhealthy person can heal – we can embrace our challenges and understand that they represent the greatest opportunities of our life. We can transform medical challenges into blessings, learning challenges into wisdom.
I often think of Rav Chaim Brisker who was dyslexic; Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita whose father, the Steipler, came to the Chazon Ish so concerned with his son’s obvious learning disability. Rav Nachman Breslover who struggled with depression, the Netziv of Volozhin who couldn’t keep up with his class, Rebbi Akiva who was impoverished and sat in an Alef – Beis class when he was forty. I think about my friend and student Shmulek who at his first Shabbos meal with me informed me that he is tone deaf and learning disabled. Today he is the Chazzan and Baal Koreh of his Shul and serves as the interim Rav by giving Daf Yomi and Halacha shiurim.
Being challenged is almost a prerequisite to greatness. Stop kvetching! Accept Hashem’s decree and get to work!
If we really know that Hashem created the world and is re-creating it today we can forgive others; we can forgive ourselves and we can even forgive God. We can fargin and actually be ecstatic over the Simcha’s of others. We will never feel jealous of others. We will be at peace.
On this Rosh Hashanah as we accept that Hashem creates the world, I bless you, and bless me back, that we should all be happy. We should all be healthy and walk on a path to greater health. We should have a life of ease. Say to Hashem, ‘My life is a vessel to serve You and to serve the masses – please make it easy!” Then, expect the miracle of a wonderful new year where we are listed in the Sifran Shel Tzadikim.
Every year I mention the Kabbalah that the niggun that we use to usher in the Yom Tov is the Niggun that we will sing when we greet Moshiach. Tonight we sing this niggun together to usher in our renewed attitudes; our renewed commitments; and our brand new life. Let us sing it together tonight, and sing it again soon to usher in a whole new world where everyone will know that “Hashem runs the world; where everyone will say – ברכו את השם המבורך