Rabbi Spike Anderson’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Holiday Message
Rosh HashanahCommunity

Rabbi Spike Anderson’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Holiday Message

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

Rabbi Spike Anderson is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.

Rabbi Spike Anderson
Rabbi Spike Anderson

As we approach the Jewish New Year of 5782, it behooves us to ask the question: What can I do, Jewishly, that will “matter” in the grand scale of my life, of my generation, and to the world?

There is a significant school of thought among rabbis and scholars that the “synagogue,” the word that encompasses the place where Jews worship, study, and gather, has literally been vital to Jewish civilization for (at least) 2,000 years.

Even before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 A.D., there is significant evidence that many Jewish communities created special places to gather in order to communicate ideals, distribute charity, study, and commune with the Divine.

In theory, any of this can be done anywhere. But the reality is that a designated place is necessary for this type of aspirational discourse to actually take place. Thus, the synagogue (or shul, or temple) exists to help us live our ideals.

The theology behind the Judaism housed in the synagogue is that we have partnered with God to heal our sick world, to take it from where it is to where it needs to be. Tikkun Olam.

This is the mission of every individual Jew, of every Jewish generation, and of the Jewish people in every land that we have lived.

We do this, quite simply, by intentional actions (mitzvot) designed to bring “light into the world.” Sometimes these mitzvot are big and seen by many, but most of the time they are quiet, private actions done when nobody is looking.

Judaism gives us the “charge” and the direction, as well as the inspiration that our life can “mean something.” By this, we imply that we can contribute to this Jewish mission of Tikkun Olam (healing the world) if we choose to make the effort.

But, as you know, synagogues do not just happen. They have to be created and nurtured. Healthy ones are constantly evolving, as the vibrant synagogue is almost a living entity.

Not because of the synagogue walls — although they indicate the designated space for us to realize our aspirational, best selves — but rather because of the amazing people (our congregants) who think that Judaism, and what the synagogue can do to help change the world for the better, is really important.

The proverbial litmus test is for you to imagine what the world and what your life would look like if Judaism and synagogues did not exist. Try it.

The Torah that emanates from synagogues through their membership is the front-line of the change that our tradition mandates we try to make through every Jewish life, in every Jewish age.

Judaism is not a luxury; it is vital to the world. Synagogues are not an afterthought; they are a cornerstone. Your active engagement, or even your passive support, allows genuine good to proliferate.

This Rosh Hashanah, perhaps the most impactful thing that you can do is to recommit to your synagogue, and in doing so, progress your place in the Jewish story.

The story that continues to change the world.

Rabbi Spike Anderson is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El.

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