Rabbi Neil Sandler’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message
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Rabbi Neil Sandler’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message

Read community insights, perspectives and opportunities seen as we enter into the 5782/ 2021 New Year.

Rabbi Neil Sandler is the senior rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Rabbi Neil Sandler
Rabbi Neil Sandler

My response is rooted in the devastation we have experienced because of COVID-19, especially as we seek to emerge from the uncertainty we still face. Opportunities provide us with choices. We may take hold of them and succeed, or we may miss them. It is up to you and me and our community.

In a recent class, Rabbi Mychal Springer, a New York hospital chaplain, cited one definition of the word “resilience,” penned by Pauline Boss, that I found compelling. It helps us to think about an opportunity we must grasp in the new year.

In “Loss, Trauma and Resilience,” Boss writes: “I define resiliency as the ability to stretch or flex in response to the pressures and strains of life. Being resilient means learning to live with unanswered questions.” Many of the past 18 months have called upon us to live amidst extraordinary pressures and strains. Most of us successfully “stretched” and “flexed” as we made life-affirming choices.

But what about “liv(ing) with unanswered questions” arising from our COVID experience? There are so many unanswered and unanswerable questions. This facet of resilience, living without answers, can be very difficult, especially for those among us who lost loved ones and friends.

If we have not yet fully found the way to live with these questions, the new year provides an opportunity. How shall we seek to grasp it?

One answer is found at the end of a psalm we specifically recite at the conclusion of our daily services in proximity to the High Holy Days, Psalm 27. It concludes, “If I did not have faith that I shall see the goodness of the Holy One in the land of the living … Hope in God. Be strong, take courage and hope in God.” Neither the psalmist nor we can be certain of seeing the goodness of God in times like the present. However, like the psalmist, even in challenging times, we can “hope in God” and find the resolve to express resilience amidst the unanswered questions.

I hope we will take hold of that opportunity in the new year. May 5782 bring us reassuring resilience, good health and well-being.

Rabbi Neil Sandler is a retired rabbi who served Ahavath Achim Synagogue for 17 years.

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