Dvar Torah – Making the last few weeks count

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 13 October 2017

It feels like it’s been a very long time since the beginning of Tishrei.  And that almost every day since Erev Rosh Hashanah has been spent in shul.
Indeed, on 13 of the last 23 days, there has been a service…
We have read, we have sung, we have contemplated.  We’ve eaten, then deliberately not eaten for a short period, then eaten a lot again. We’ve danced, we’ve studied and learned …

It has felt, in many ways, like a celebration of our Jewish lives, and of our community.  Much of it has been a huge amount of fun.  Yes with seriousness and this year, with mourning mixed in too, but mainly joyful.

But was it also more than this?

I want to take you back to the very first moment of the New Year for those who gathered in this room, 23 evenings ago, just after we had lit the candles for Rosh Hashanah.  We read the following, our first words of 5778:
“Let us look back on and let us take stock of another year that has passed.  In our own lives or in the lives of those in the world around us… May what we have learnt from the year that has passed change for the better the year that lies before us.”

As we move away from the past few weeks of festivals, that is our challenge.  To ensure that the continuing echo of the last days changes for the better the year that lies ahead of us.  That somehow we, and our world, are improved for it.  It might be in our Jewish lives – volunteering in community, making time for study, engaging in gemilut chasadim; It might be in the wider world, in pursuit of social justice; It might be in our relationships – with partners, children, parents, friends.

The joy and celebration were great, but for this period to really have counted, it needs to have changed us too.
Only through that change in ourselves we can hope to achieve the very last words recited in that long stretch of festivals, which were read by Colin as he recited a final blessing yesterday morning –
Yisa Adonai panav eleinu, v’yasem lanu shalom – May God’s face turn towards us and give us a year of peace.