On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, who holds the pen?
I am sure that you will agree, it is hard to believe that yet another year has gone by! The House has undergone an amazing period of growth – most importantly, with the nearly two thousand young adults who are inspired by our relevant Jewish programming and education! The phenomenal thing about Jewish education is that it does not always involve learning things one has never heard of before; rather, it is about presenting a new way of looking at a familiar concept. Hence, The House is all about providing a (re)fresh(ing) new lens for our Jewish traditions and values, in order to show their relevance to modern-day life.
With that in mind, allow me to share with you such an idea, in the hopes that it inspire your New Years as much as it has mine, and the young professionals with whom I have shared it. Consider this a small, very heartfelt token of thanks from both The House and myself, for all the young Jewish adults you help inspire throughout the year.
Imagine that Rosh Hashana is not just another day in the long timeline of your life. Imagine that it is not just a convenient break in your routine to make some resolutions to improve. Instead, imagine it as a blank slate on which you can write whatever you want as the next chapter of your life. Anything is possible. Everything is possible. This is a powerful image.
The best part about this image is that it is real. This concept is understood through a beautiful interpretation of one of the most famous High Holiday prayers, U’netaneh Tokef.
The prayer begins with the words, “B’Rosh Hashanah Yechateyvun,” or “On Rosh Hashanah it [our future] is written.” It is sobering to think that our year is determined from the outset, and that God is committed to ̶ and resolute in ̶ making what is written become reality. And it is unnerving to picture God scrupulously taking notes on everything we have done the year past, and determining what we are deserving of in the new year ahead.
“It is unnerving to picture God scrupulously taking notes on everything we have done the year past, and determining what we are deserving of in the new year ahead.”
Sounds scary. Unless we look at it from a different perspective.
All the prayer actually says is that our future is written down and it is done so on this day… but it does not indicate who is actually doing the writing. Who in fact holds the pen? Further study of the prayer reveals that when the book is open and our future is being written for our life’s next chapter, it is not God’s hand that is holding the pen, but is in fact our own!
We all make mistakes and often we grow from our mistakes…but only if we acknowledge that they are mistakes and that we are capable of better. So along comes Rosh Hashanah, a time when God asks us to dream and commit it to writing, not in a diary but in a chapter called “our new year.” This is our opportunity to rewrite a new year, to recalibrate our values, to wipe the slate clean and start authoring our own futures. Now is the time to realize that our past need not determine our future; that the things we often hold on to are precisely the things that are holding us back!
This sounds far simpler than it is. After all, improving your life and your commitment to Jewish values is not easy… unless you have some help. As previously mentioned, God is indeed committed to helping make what is written become a reality. While He may not write our future, He looks in the book and signs off on it, committing to help us achieve our goals. He’s not taking on the role of judge; He is signing up to be our trainer, our coach, committed to helping us achieve our bold new goals, because anything and everything is possible.
“He’s not taking on the role of judge; He is signing up to be our trainer, our coach, committed to helping us achieve our bold new goals…”
Wipe your slate clean. Then take a pen and start thinking, “What should I write that will help me become the best person I can be, the best Jew I can be – and ultimately the best ME I can be?” Write a bold and inspiring new chapter and then always remember, especially when the struggle to stay true to your goals is challenged, that you’ve got the best Coach in your corner to help you succeed! And let the new year begin!
Thank you for all your continued support an friendship. Together, may we continue to guide the next generation in reaching the potential we all know they have!
Shana Tova to you and to all those that are dear to you!
Founder & Executive Director