We are now in the month of Elul, the weeks immediately preceding the High Holidays, ushering in the new year. Traditionally, the shofar is sounded each day at morning prayers (except Shabbat) in order to awaken us to prepare ourselves for the year ahead. This is the time of introspection, of an audit of our soul (literally!) as we move forward in our lives. As the pandemic continues to shape our day-to-day activities, the shofar calls us to awaken and prepare not only for the High Holy Days, but for the year ahead.
So many of us – almost instinctively – wish each other “a happy and a healthy new year.” Though we always mean it, healthy never seemed more real a wish than it does this year. So, in that spirit, I offer the following thoughts:
On Rosh Hashanah and throughout the year, we recite the following prayer for the sick – the mi sh’bayrach:
“May the one who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless and heal those who are ill. May the Blessed Holy One be filled with compassion for their health to be restored and their strength to be revived. May God swiftly send them a complete renewal of body and spirit, and let us say, Amen.”
Most Jewish prayers do not begin by invoking our ancestors. Why does the mi sh’bayrach? Maybe because, when times are tough, we remember that we come from a long line of those who loved us – and we have a long line ahead of us, too. And, as for the present, we’re family – as a people, as a community, and of course in the most literal sense.
Second, we ask God for compassion – not merely compassion, but to be filled with compassion. If we are to imitate God in our lives, let us seek to deepen our own compassion for others … and for ourselves.
And finally, if we can think of our past, our future and our present with compassion – As we say the mi sh’bayrach prayer, especially during these challenging times, surely we will be restored, revived and renewed.
On behalf of the board and staff of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, we extend heartfelt best wishes to our community family for the new year. To you and your loved ones, may you know peace, good health and contentment in 5781.
Shana Tovah U’mevurechet!