These are my first High Holydays as Rabbi of New London and I am nervous and working hard to prepare for the days to come. But this sense of nervousness and this need for preparation has to be something we all share – you and I. Rosh Hashanah demands preparation. Even the prayers themselves have been in preparation this past month. A new Psalm has crept into the Evening and Morning prayers and, on weekdays, the blast of the Shofar heralds Rosh Hashanah’ approach. We are called upon to get ready.
Ready for what?
We need to be ready to stand before our Creator with the work of our lives in our hands; the moments of loving kindness, selfless service and commitment and the moments of selfish failure, greed and anger.
There’s a lot to stack up, in the ledgers of our existence; too much to rush into, straight off the street. We need to be in training. So let me offer two training methods. One requires your pocket, the other, as my American friends would say, the seat of your pants.
Go somewhere the rush of the world doesn’t reach. Personally, I can’t recommend Synagogue highly enough. Come and sit and let the prayers wash over you, around you. It really doesn’t matter that they are in a foreign language. Use the liturgy to block out the noise of the everyday and allow the important relationships of your life to crystalise, hold you and move you. Allow the stillness to do its work. We are, in this day and age, terribly bad at sitting. We are, in this day and age, not so great at tending the important relationships of our life – our inter-personal relationships and our relationships with our Creator and our fragile Universe. So find a place to sit and reflect.
Secondly give something away.
There is a wonderful moment in Tony Hancock’s ‘Blood Donor’ where our hero, having just donated ‘nearly an armful’ of blood, whips out his little black book in which he has written all the financial gifts he has made to charity and enquires how much a pint should be worth. It’s a provocative suggestion, but our attachment to material things and personal possessions can indeed be measured with this sort of precision. Becoming generous with our material possessions promotes, with stark clarity, generosity of the soul. Rabbi Harold Kushner writes that, when asked, what a person should do to take a step towards greater spiritual seriousness, he always replies – give away more money than you think you can afford. We live in a delicate and battered world. There is so much that deserves out support; organisations that tend to the physical needs and those that tend to the needs of the soul. Members of
Prepare well and we will merit what Josephine, Carmi, Harry and I wish for us all; a sweet, happy and healthy year, lshanah tovah.