Rabbi Shalom Lewis’ Rosh Hashanah Message for 2022
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Rabbi Shalom Lewis’ Rosh Hashanah Message for 2022

Rabbi Shalom Lewis shares his thoughts and inspiration for the Jewish New Year.

Rabbi Shalom Lewis
Rabbi Shalom Lewis

As we enter another year, we ponder what changes we might make or will we simply continue down the same path as before. We daven with sincerity, thump with contrition and fast with passion.

We are High Holy Day loyalists but as Elul fades, typically we make no changes and backslide into the familiar. We calculate that increased commitment is disruptive, intrusive and so we rely on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to carry us through the year. I get it but permit me to share a thought that might linger in our souls as the Ten Days recede into sacred memory.

There’s a wonderful tale of a deaf man who wanders into a village. As he passes a large hall he peers through a window and sees people waving their arms, jumping up and down. What he doesn’t see is a band playing on a stage. The musicians are not visible to him from his vantage of the window.

Perplexed, he stares and stares at the those within who are leaping all about. Shaking their bodies this way and that. The deaf man reasons that this must be an asylum, that the gyrating crowd he observes are mad. Why does he not realize that these folks are dancing? The tale concludes. He believes these people are insane because he does not hear the music.

A life of faith is seen by many as crazy by those on the outside looking in. They do not understand how one chooses to live a life of restriction. Of limitation. A life packed with laws and demands. A life that denies the individual the opportunity to suck the marrow out of every moment. YOLO, they opine. We live but one life.

How dare a system deprive us of the freedom to explore and experience all that is arrayed before us? For one to sit on a rocking chair in wrinkly dotage wallowing in the regret of could haves and should haves, is cruel. As dusk falls, cry out these critics of faith, such spiritual victims might very well lament not breaking the shackles of their youth. How sad this cynical, bitter assessment. How unfortunate and shallow is their silent view through the window. They who do not hear the music.

A life of faith for those who hear the music, the sacred symphony, is not one of sacrifice nor deprivation but a wonderous journey that fills the neshama with God’s holiness. Kashrut doesn’t restrict, it humanizes. Tzedakka doesn’t deplete, it fills. Shabbos doesn’t imprison, it liberates. Mikve doesn’t limit, it purifies. Festivals don’t intrude, they elevate. Prayer doesn’t routinize, it eternalizes. Rituals don’t burden, they beautify.

All that we do in obeisance to a divine system transforms all we experience into acts and deeds of sanctity. Nothing escapes the sparkle of heaven. We dwell in transcendence. Missing nothing. Envying no one.

There are many who are deaf, look through the window unaware of the musicians, seeing and presuming lunacy. But for those who hear the music it is not madness rather it is a glorious dance of rapture.
Shannah Tova to All.

Shalom Lewis is rabbi emeritus at Congregation Etz Chaim having served the congregation since 1977.

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