Dena Schusterman’s Rosh Hashanah Message for 2022
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Dena Schusterman’s Rosh Hashanah Message for 2022

Dena Schusterman shares her thoughts and inspiration for the Jewish New Year.

Dena Schusterman is a founder of Chabad Intown, a Jewish educator, and a founding director of both the Intown Jewish Preschool ( and the Intown Hebrew School. She and her husband, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, are native Californians living in Atlanta for 20 years with their eight children.

Dena Shusterman
Dena Shusterman

I feel seen.

It’s a throwaway line on social media comments, even if it is to poke fun; feeling seen feels good.

The Instagram account @dudewithsign and the Jewish version @yidwithsign hold up raggedy square shaped brown box sides with one-liners like:
Inflation, Read the Room.

We don’t need a meeting to plan for the meeting.
No one asked for your first day of school photo.
We get it you like Shtisel Vicchulai, Vichulai.

And somehow, these tiny pieces of shared humor are weirdly validating.
Sure, feeling genuinely secure comes from within myself. Yet confirmation from others is also part of my human experience. This relating is enriching—it’s how we humans connect and bond and how we are wired.

I remember learning in an early childhood course that the reason toddlers say, “Watch me! Look at me!” –think the pool, where you have your eyeballs peeled, and still, they shriek a bazillion times over and over. This is because young children need their caregivers’ attention to feel their existence.

Today, we understand that being understood and validated as a child is a mark of how you will attach and feel security as an adult.

I get it.
I want to feel seen; you want to feel seen, kids need to feel seen, but oddly enough, you know who wants and needs it the most? GOD.
It is strange but true, and may I posit that this is what Rosh Hashana is all about. Instead of thinking about the High Holidays with dread and heaviness, try thinking about it as the mystics do:

God does not reign as our sovereign unless we crown Him king. He relies on us. As it says, ‘There is no King without a people.’ We are His people. He needs us. The profound paradox is that on Rosh Hashana we hold all of the power in giving God His.

Yes, He exists with or without us, but somehow and for some reason, he chose to create the world with humans he wants as subjects and wants us to do that crowning.

Why would an infinite God need or want our validation? We don’t know, and the reason is beyond our comprehension.

What we do know is that Rosh Hashana is a pivotal moment for God and us:
Will we choose Him?
Will we notice Him despite His being hidden?
Will we establish this as the foundation for our relationship?
Will we invest ourselves in trying our best to do His bidding?
Will we seek Him out when we feel lost?

This is the gist of it.
This is the enormous privilege of being a Jew on Rosh Hashana, where we have agency in creating this reality.

I cannot think of a time in history when freedom is understood as it is today. Imagine telling slaves that they can choose.
Imagine telling peasants in pre-revolutionary times that they have options.
Imagine telling women before the 1900s that they have a vote.

No one would understand. Today we all understand. Today we know that every single Jewish act we do is our choice.
Every person who shows up for shofar blowing in 2022 is making a choice, even if it is a subconscious one.
Perhaps you think that giving people a choice is taking too much of a chance. Can

I trust my child, spouse, and employee to make the choice that I so desperately want to happen?

Maybe I can, perhaps I can’t, but one thing is for sure; in His infinite wisdom and with a lot more to lose, God trusts us— and there is not one single year that we have let Him down.

Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch L’olam Va’ed.
(Thank you, Alisa, my sister for this idea, Rabbi YYJ and Shterna Ginsburg for teaching me Chasidus)”

Dena Schusterman is a founder of Chabad Intown, the Intown Jewish Preschool and the Intown Hebrew School, she writes about parenting and applied Torah and chassidic thought, teaches women’s classes, and is currently working on writing her first book. Dena and her husband, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, are native Californians living in Atlanta together with their children.

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