As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we contemplate the big questions like: What is the purpose of our lives? What does G-d expect from us, and have we become the best people that our tradition expects us to be?
Judaism is not about the physical state of our communal buildings or even our synagogues. It’s about the Jewish life that takes place within those walls.
So, what is Jewish life all about? We are a diverse people, with many different legitimate responses to that question. But at its core, the upcoming High Holidays serve as a reminder for us to renew our connection to the teachings and values of Judaism that have been passed down to us through the ages.
It is a daunting thought, but each one of us represents the final product of all the generations of the Jewish people that have come before us. So, in a very real way, the entire history of the Jewish people resides in each and every one of us. Not in the beauty of our facilities, but in our commitment to keeping our Jewish community a kehilla kedosha — strong, vibrant, and sacred.
The High Holidays also underscore our relentless pursuit for self-improvement and the need to grow as human beings. Hopefully, we emerge from the process a bit more refined, a bit more spiritually energized and prepared to live a more meaningful Jewish life in the year ahead.
Abraham Joshua Heschel reflected this truth: “The significance of Judaism does not lie in its being conducive to the mere survival but rather in its being a source of spiritual wealth, and source of meaning relevant to all peoples. Survival, mere continuation of being is a condition man has in common with animals. Characteristic of humanity is concern for what to do with survival. To be or not to be is not the question. How to be and how not to be is the question.”
How each of us chooses to live in the coming year will determine how the story of Judaism continues to unfold. We are the writers of that story, and that is an enormous responsibility. We build up the institutions and keep our community strong and buzzing. We are each a thread in the fabric of Jewish life; with our presence adding to the strength and beauty of our community tapestry.
May we all continue to grow ourselves and our communities for many generations to come. L’Shanah Tovah u’Metukah!
Rabbi Mark Zimmerman is the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom.