I wish everyone, our families, our friends, and our congregation Shanah Tovah. I pray for a good year for the whole Jewish community, all humanity, and all life in our beautiful, beleaguered world sheculo chal mipanecha, which both trembles and rejoices before God.
This year may we be healers. The world is full of wounds and the dangers that lie ahead, for Israel, for many countries and for nature are obvious. One’s heart weeps.
Healing is an art which often requires sophisticated skills. But in essence it’s simple; it’s based on just two words: ‘I care.’ But where do we start, when from all around there are ceaseless appeals and the very earth can feel like one great cry? In the ancient words of Rabbi Tarfon, the one choice we are not at liberty to make is to do nothing.
I believe we should focus on whoever it is in our nature to care about naturally. If we love children, do what you can for them. If we feel a special tenderness for older people, listen to them. If we love birds and animals, plant gardens, woods and meadows. The other day I saw a chair tied firmly to a lamppost outside a café. On it was a sign: ‘If you’re no longer so young, or walking is difficult, please take a rest. We care about you.’ What kindness! Caring is often expressed in seemingly small things, but the difference it makes is inestimable.
In these tough times, to be healers we must also be fighters. There is unavoidable suffering on earth. But there is also wanton cruelty: the brutality of aggressive war; the contemptuousness of race and gender hate; the despotic arrogance which seeks to crush justice and freedom; the despoliation of the earth which may benefit some but devastates others and destroys the viability of our planet. We must fight these wrongs, skilfully, determinedly, forcefully but peacefully, acknowledging that in some we too may be implicated.
At stake are Judaism’s core principles: that this is God’s earth for which we must care with respect, justice and compassion. The very essence and reputation of Israel, and of Judaism itself, are currently at stake.
From where do we draw our strength?
We do so from solidarity, hope, love and faith.
Solidarity and community are the basis of Jewish life, and of all society. Whether looking after the sick, combatting poverty, cleaning up local rivers or defending minorities, belonging to like-minded communities renews our resolve and restores our morale.
Hope, tikvah, is not airy optimism, but the elixir of vision, aspiration and action combined.
Love is our deepest motivation, God’s presence in our hearts, as we pray each day: ahavat olam, inspire us with eternal, inexhaustible love.
Faith is not pious dogma, but the awareness of the deep resilience of the human spirit, of Judaism, of life itself.
May we have the faith, love, hope and solidarity to be healers in the years ahead.