Rosh Hashanah Message: Rabbi Joshua Heller
Rosh HashanahCommunity

Rosh Hashanah Message: Rabbi Joshua Heller

Rabbi Joshua Heller shares his thoughts and inspiration for the Jewish New Year.

Rabbi Joshua Heller is the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Torah.

Rabbi Joshua Heller, of Congregation B'nai Torah
Rabbi Joshua Heller, of Congregation B'nai Torah

On Rosh Hashanah, the traditional Torah reading culminates in G-d’s promise to Abraham that he will be like the stars in the heavens, and the sand on the shores of the sea. Abraham’s reward for being willing to offer up his only son, is a blessing that his descendants will become multitudes, like these two uncountable quantities. If we consider more carefully, though, these two images are unlike in everything except for their number. We’ve all seen the beach, and perhaps even the desert.
While grains of sand are seemingly infinite, so that trying to count them seems like an impossible task, there is nothing special about any particular one of them.

Buckets could vanish unnoticed, tons wiped away by the tide. We thoughtlessly wipe a thousand grains off our feet. In contrast, stars are lofty. Today we have a theoretical understanding of the vastness of space. We know that each star might represent a solar system, or an entire world, a multitude in and of itself. In practice, though, if we are city dwellers, colossal collections of galaxies are rendered invisible by a nearby streetlight. The few stars that we can see are just a dim, dark, echo of what Abraham would have seen gazing into the clear dark desert sky.

Perhaps as we enter the high holidays, we should consider the ways in which we, as Abraham’s descendants, are like both sand and stars. When we think of sand, we are reminded of the need for humility. Our tradition teaches us that we are but dust and ashes. On the other hand, even that which is humble can be durable and enduring. When even stones are worn down, sand remains. On the other hand, we cannot forget that each of us is a star as well.

Each of us is a unique creation, of infinite value. Each of us encompasses entire worlds. Each of us has the ability to emit brilliant light. The process of teshuvah helps us make that holy light shine through when it might otherwise be overshadowed by the neon glow of nearby temptations. Even the brightest stars will someday burn out, but their light can continue to bring illumination to those far off long after they have dimmed. Let this be a year when we bring a little more light to the world, even as we keep our feet rooted in the sand.

Rabbi Joshua Heller is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Torah.

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