This Friday evening, Sept. 18, Jews around the world will begin celebrating the two-day festival of Rosh Hashanah, marking the new Jewish year of 5781. This year Rosh Hashanah will be different as we celebrate under the cloud of the ongoing pandemic.
Rosh Hashanah is not only the Jewish New Year but also the day that draws all the blessings for the coming year. Interestingly, Rosh Hashanah is always on the night of a new moon, when the moon is mostly hidden.
This teaches us the greatest blessings come during the greatest darkness. It is the things we do while faced with the greatest challenges, the solutions we discover under duress and the strength we find in life’s harshest struggles that truly bring out the best within us.
That is why we celebrate Rosh Hashanah by blowing the Shofar, an instrument made from a ram’s horn. The Shofar makes its loud, distinct musical sound when the air is squeezed through the small opening, representing the great power released from the most extreme constraints.
Over the past few months, we as a society have faced challenges we never imagined. We have lost almost 200,000 lives. Many have lost their jobs or seen their business decimated. Division and social challenges threaten to tear us apart. We are almost six months into a partial lockdown that impacts every part of our lives.
Yet in these past few months we have seen unexpected blessings emerge from the darkness. Families have gotten closer, many have begun to study and expand their knowledge in ways they never expected, and many are showing unprecedented kindness and sensitivity to friends, neighbors and strangers.
In our own community, dozens of selfless volunteers have been buying and delivering groceries for people who are high risk. Many, who themselves are struggling, have reached out to help others.
The Friendship Foundation serving more than 2,000 children and young adults with special needs has moved all of its programs virtual allowing us to greatly expand our programs without concern for space limitations or distance that we had previously.
As we begin the Jewish New Year this Friday evening, we will be thinking not just about the challenges and pain we’ve all experienced this past year, but about the unexpected growth and achievements we have been able make during these challenging times.
Join me on Sunday, Sept. 20 for our outdoor socially-distanced services in the Jewish Community Center parking lot as we blow the Shofar; praying for a quick end to our current challenges and looking forward to even greater growth and opportunity that will follow in the coming year.
Details about the services can be found at jccmb.com/highholidays
Wishing you a happy & healthy, sweet new year!
Rabbi Yossi Mintz is executive director of Jewish Community Center and Rabbi of Chabad of the Beach Cities