President Lisa-Sue Quackenbush’s RH Address, 2022

President’s Rosh Hashanah Address 2022

In the September Bulletin, I wrote about being present. I was referring to being mindful, focussed, and in the moment. This is one definition of being present and certainly an important one, especially during these High Holy Days. Introspection, mindfulness and truly sitting within yourself helps you really avail yourself to the liturgy and meaningfulness of the Holidays. And while I believe this to be an essential process to experience these Days of Awe, I also believe that being present can have another meaning.

Being present can include actively engaging, embracing and availing yourself to connect to what’s around you. In many ways, you are already present. You are here (either in the Sanctuary or via Zoom). You have paid your yearly dues. And while we are incredibly happy and appreciative to see you physically in our midst and to receive your very necessary, monetary support, is that enough for you? Is that enough for us?

Please do not misunderstand my intentions here. My appreciation of your support of Vassar Temple is truly heartfelt and sincere. My question for you is this, are the membership dues that you pay worth simply receiving the monthly Bulletin and attending a couple services a year? Could you be getting more bang for your buck? I think so. And while monetary support is what pays the bills, it’s not the only thing that makes a Congregation. I send my payments and donations in because it’s necessary and certainty commits me financially. I serve this Congregation because it fills my heart and soul and connects me to people. Ultimately people are what make this the warm and engaging Congregation that Vassar Temple is known for. I believe that you get back what you put in and more at Vassar Temple. It is my honor and pleasure to give you some examples that can help you “stretch” and become more present, engaged and connected at Vassar Temple.

Let me start off by inviting you to join (if you are not already a member) our very active and dedicated Brotherhood and Sisterhood. The contributions of these groups to so many aspects of Temple Life cannot be overstated. We truly could not function without their diverse, physical and long-time financial support. We welcome your membership and participation in these essential auxiliaries.

As far as committees go, let’s first look at the physicality of our Temple. As any homeowner knows, no matter how much future planning is involved, there are always projects and surprises that pop up and must be addressed. We have a House Committee that assesses this building on a regular basis for safety needs, maintenance and upkeep. We have a Technology Committee that ensures we can have both in person. remote, and hybrid Services, meetings and educational experiences that reach as many congregants as possible. We have a Security Committee and a separate Health and Safety Committee. Both of these committees strive to always be at least one step ahead, in mitigating congregation and community safety and health concerns for our Congregants. We have a Robust Cemetery Committee that is in the process of updating and clarifying our policies as well as ensuring the upkeep of the final resting place of our Congregants, in our cemeteries.

We have both vibrant Ritual and Music Committees who are tasked with making our multitude of Services varied, joyful, spiritual, and continue to meet the changing needs and wants of our Congregation. We have very active Adult Education and Religious School Committees who work hard at stimulating both the younger and older minds, and developing and bringing in topical and interesting programs for this community.

We have a warm and wonderful Reyut Committee who reach out into the Congregation when anyone might have a need. They bring food to the homebound and offer rides for people to various appointments.

It’s not surprising that We have a multitude of Committees dealing with Finances at our Temple. This is such challenging work. We have a General Finance Committee, Fundraising Committee, Endowment Committee, Investment Committee, and Scrip. These committees are made up of great collaborative and financially conscious people who find a multitude of ways to not only maintain, but to grow our money and investments at Vassar Temple.

We have incredibly energetic Social Action and Civic Engagement Committees that not only boost up and support our local communities with multiple and varied food drives, and donations of health and safety supplies for the homeless, but support our society as a whole with programs like Reclaim Our Vote and collections for various global disasters, which unfortunately happen way too often.

We have hard working and dedicated Membership and Outreach Committees that are always making new connections and working to expand and invite families to join our growing and diverse Congregation.

We have had a Refugee Resettlement Committee that has helped a few families over the years acclimate to their new lives in America, most recently working with HIAS and MHIA to resettle an Afghan family.

We will soon be assembling a House Green Committee that will assist Vassar Temple in participating in productive and concrete ways so that we can make a smaller carbon footprint in this community and the world. We will also be assembling a 175th Anniversary Year Committee to begin orchestrating and planning all the ways we will celebrate Vassar Temple’s 175th year (which is next year).

We have a Publicity Committee that gets the word out there to local publications and Social Media to keep people engaged and informed as to who we are and what we do as a Congregation. We have a Nominating Committee that looks into our Congregation every year to entice and invite members to become leaders in governance of our Temple.

This Congregation has quite a few, very active leaders, whom I deeply respect and enjoy working with side-by-side. And while the focused work and value of their efforts cannot be denied, don’t be fooled by what you see. They are not exclusively running the Temple. Committees are working relentlessly on pivoting and tweaking goals and ways to achieve them as our society and community seems to continually change. In the same way that there is a driver (our leaders) steering the car. The car does not go anywhere if all systems (active committees) are not primed, in place and working to full capacity.

I have just named over 25 active and necessary committees at Vassar Temple. I’m sure I will hear from those I inadvertently left out. I’m sorry if I missed you in this very expansive list. I’m hoping that I have enlightened you to the many ways in which you can be present, engaged, and connected. If there is a relevant committee that you can think of that we don’t have, please let me know. We will initiate one. Some of these committees are large. Some are small. Most committees meet once every month or two. Some meet more often. Some meet less. Many committees meet via Zoom. Some meet in person and some are hybrid. All committees welcome new members. Committees should represent our membership. That only happens if you join. What committee speaks to you? Where do your strengths and interests lie? How can we help you get more bang for your buck at Vassar Temple? Most importantly, how can we assist you in becoming more engaged, connected and present in Temple life? In the coming days and weeks, please reach out to me, any member of the Board or the Office and ask questions. Attend a Committee meeting or two. See what works and feels right for you.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that I have gotten to know so many members just by serving and working side-by-side on various committees over the years. Friendships and special bonds are formed from working on common interests and goals. There is truly a camaraderie and family feeling here when it comes to Vassar Temple. Working alongside one another for a common cause enhances the feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and empowers us to feel useful, connected and truly being engaged in the future of Vassar Temple.

Merriam- Webster defines the word Committee as: a body of persons delegated to consider, investigate, take action on, or report in some manner. I would offer my own take on this by saying that it is a group of individuals coming together in collaboration for a common goal. I am a firm believer in both of the sayings; “Many hands make light work.” and “We only reap what we sow.” In this year 5783, may we join hands and minds and come together and work towards a common goal. May we work together to plant the seeds of our future here at Vassar Temple. I look forward to collaborating alongside you in making the commitment to be just a little more engaged, connected and present in Temple life. I am certain that like myself, you’ll be glad you did.
L’Shanah Tovah.

Lisa-Sue Quackenbush
Vassar Temple



What Angell Will Stay our Hands? Renni S. Altman, DD, Rosh Hashanah morning

“What Angel Will Stay Our Hands?”
A Sermon for Rosh HaShanah Morning 5783
Rabbi Renni S. Altman, DD
Vassar Temple
Every year I cringe as we approach the Torah reading on Rosh Hashanah. I hope that young children aren’t present. How can you begin to explain to a child that on one of our holiest days of the year we read this most perplexing story of a father’s near sacrifice of his son?
Yet we are not unique.
In the Greek tragedy, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease a goddess and be granted favorable winds to sail against Troy.
In Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus kills his daughter, Lavinia, after she has been raped and maimed by attackers to preserve the family honor.
And child sacrifice is not just part of literature, it was part of ancient cultures:
The Aztecs and Mayans sacrificed both children and adults to their gods. Exposing an unwanted child to the elements or wild animals was a common practice throughout the Greco-Roman world. The Carthaginians of North Africa sacrificed their infants and children to pagan gods over a period of several centuries.
Even in ancient Israel there were kings who adopted the cultic practices of the Canaanites and “consigned [their] sons to the fire in the Valley of Ben-hinnom.”
So, at the time of the writing of the Akedah, its message that the God of Israel did not want child sacrifice had real, lifesaving, meaning. This story was central in setting Israel apart from child sacrificing nations, emphasizing that ours is a unique and loving God who demands that we act ethically in our treatment of one another, especially our children.
By the time our liturgical practices developed, however, child sacrifice had become a rare phenomenon. Still, this story has maintained its place as a high moment in our Rosh Hashanah service. And it is not only the Torah reading, but the shofar, the most unique and prominent aspect of Rosh Hashanah, that takes us back to that moment. The rabbis taught that in sounding the shofar, we remind God of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and as Abraham’s descendants, we are worthy of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Need we be reminded annually that our God would put a person through such a test, even to teach this most powerful, lifesaving lesson?
Need we remember year after year, this darkest moment in the life of Abraham? This man who so boldly dared to challenge God, the Judge of all the world, to deal justly with the innocent of Sodom and Gemorrah, yet remains silent when God tells him to bring his son, his only son, the one he loves, Isaac, up to the mountain as an offering? What about Isaac and justice for innocent Isaac? Where is the plea for your own son, Abraham?
Throughout the ages, we Jews have wrestled with this story. Did Abraham pass the test? What exactly was the test? Was it that he was so willing to sacrifice his son, or did he really believe that God wouldn’t let him go that far?
So intent was Abraham on his mission that the angel had to call his name twice, “Avraham, Avraham” — to get him to stop!
For centuries, Jews have been reading this story on Rosh Hashanah. Even our reform movement, with all its creativity and changes, wouldn’t omit it. The traditional practice is to read Genesis 21 about the birth of Isaac and the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael on the first day and the Akedah on the second – both challenging stories! When Reform Judaism omitted second day observances, the one Torah reading chosen was the Akedah, I’m guessing in large part, because of its connection to the ram and the shofar.
The Gates of Repentance offered an alternative reading: the story of creation, since this is the birthday of the world. Most likely, it was included for the growing number of congregations observing a second day and not as a replacement for the Akedah.
It wasn’t until Mishkan Hanefesh that the traditional first and second day readings, Genesis 21 and 22, are both included. Two alternative readings are at the back of the mahzor: the story of creation and the passage where Abraham challenges God about Sodom and Gemorrah.
It is hard to imagine a Reform congregation, even those observing two days, where the Binding of Isaac, is not being read today. So ingrained is it in our Rosh Hashanah experience that it wouldn’t feel like the holiday without it.
Here we are again, poised to read this horrific tale. I must confess, I came close to being renegade and suggesting that we read an alternative passage. Then, I heard the voice of that angel crying out to me. She is crying out to all of us: stop sacrificing your children! Yes, today, in the 21st century, we are sacrificing our children and it is not to appease any gods or for some supposedly noble cause, but for completely selfish reasons.
When an 18-year-old can legally acquire a weapon of war and murder 19 children and two teachers, when firearms continue to be the leading cause of death for American children and teens , hen this great nation cannot find its way to end gun violence, can we honestly say that we are not sacrificing our children?
Judaism teaches that Adam was created alone, to teach that if you take a life, it is as if you have destroyed an entire world, and if you save one life, it is as if you have saved an entire world.
Nineteen children, gone in a matter of seconds; nineteen worlds, erased.
The news accounts of the children returning to school in Uvalde, TX earlier this month were simply heartbreaking. Nineteen children did not return to school. Nineteen families sent one less child to school this year. Two teachers are forever missing from their classrooms. Some children are being home schooled; others are going to new schools. Their school has been torn down. Children are traumatized and fearful of going back to school; they don’t have faith that the additional police can protect them. Imagine their parents’ fear. An entire town has been forever changed.
After ten years of unfulfilled promises of gun safety legislation following the Sandy Hook shooting, it took Uvalde for Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, whose state that carried those 26 deaths for the past ten years, to be able to bring together senators from both sides of the aisle who could overcome partisanship and agree upon the first major gun safety legislation in decades. While not banning any weapons, it is an important first step towards sensible gun control.
Personally, I am grateful for New York’s strong gun safety laws and the prohibition against carrying guns in sensitive places such as this synagogue. We are taking appropriate safety precautions and leaving weapons in the hands of those most trained to use them.
If we are to save and not sacrifice our children’s lives, these legislative protections must not be the last. Creative minds can certainly find ways to protect life within the legitimate parameters of the second amendment.
On Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the birthday of the world. In the biblical account of creation, Adam and Eve were put in charge, given free reign, though tasked with the responsibility to “work and protect” the Garden. A midrash envisions God warning them, “See my works, how fine and excellent they are! All that I have created I have created for you. Think upon this and do not corrupt and desolate My world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one else to set it right after you.”
Look at our world today: increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, ice loss at the poles and in mountain glaciers, increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires — so much of it the result of human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels.
We are failing in our roles as stewards of this world. The world’s children are dying – in fires and hurricanes, from cancer caused by pollutants, from hunger and malnutrition due to food insecurity brought on by climate change.
We are sacrificing our children on the altar of our unquenchable thirst for the world’s resources, our inability to put future generations’ needs ahead of our own, the polarizing partisanship that precludes compromise, stagnation that inhibits the possibilities of new approaches and innovative solutions.
If we cannot find ways to slow the increasing temperature, we will be desolating our world, leaving an inhospitable environment for future generations. The recent climate legislation included in the Inflation Reduction Act is a first step upon which we must continue to build if our children and our children’s children will have a healthy world in which to live.
Gun violence, climate change – these are but two of the many challenges we are facing in our society for which our children are suffering. We can all name more. What angel will stay our hand?
When protesting against the Vietnam war, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, said “in a free society, some are guilty and all are responsible.” The responsibility for our children is upon all of us. Judaism commands us to save life; pikuach nefesh overrides all.
Yet, it feels so overwhelming. What difference can we make?

Ruth Messenger, a great Jewish social activist and immediate past President of the American Jewish World Service, challenged attendees at a Reform Movement biennial convention some years ago on just this issue:
“We have to confront…the feeling that we are too insignificant to do this work,” she said.
“We feel overwhelmed by the statistical realities or the political challenges, but we do not have that luxury. We cannot retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed. We bemoan the lack of leaders for our time, but…we are those leaders. We have that power. We need to believe more in ourselves.”
I remind you as well of a much older teaching, from R. Tarfon, who lived through the destruction of the Second Temple: “It is not upon you to complete the task, neither are you free to desist from it.”

Every step we take, even the small ones, makes a difference. With every action, we lower that knife from the necks of our children.

And when it feels too overwhelming and we lose sight of the big picture, remember the starfish. A man walking on the beach, sees piles of starfish washed up on shore. In the distance, he says a woman bending down and straightening up, bending down and straightening up. When the man reaches her, he sees that she is picking up a starfish and casting it back into the ocean. “What are you doing?” asks the man. “There must be thousands of starfish along this beach. You cannot possibly save them all. What difference can you make?” The woman looked at the man, bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean and said, “Made a difference to that one!”

We do not have to complete the task, neither are we free to desist from it.
If you save a life, you save a whole world.
In a society, some are guilty, all are responsible.
We cannot afford the luxury of being overwhelmed.

We are responsible to stop the sacrifice of our children.
We can begin personally, making changes in our own lives: limiting our use of fossil fuels,
supporting solar farms even if we cannot have solar power ourselves.

We can get involved in community efforts and support organizations that help the causes we care about.

Through the efforts of our social action committee, we offer so many ways to make a difference in the lives of those within our own Poughkeepsie community who are struggling:
You can make food for lunch box or the homeless shelter
You can provide school supplies and winter clothes for children at Morse School, or volunteer there as some of our congregants do
When you shop, buy some items for the can jam to go to the food pantry
You can be an escort at Planned Parenthood,
You can be part of a building-level green team being formed here to assess and improve our sustainability.
These are just some of the efforts in which this congregation is engaged to help save lives.

Perhaps the most important, far reaching and long-lasting tool that we have to protect our children is that of our vote. Our democracy gives us the great gift of voting, the opportunity to participate in the election of representatives who will be our voice – on the local, county, state, and federal levels. We can counter the frightening rise of those that would limit what teachers can teach and what books children can read, by voting in school board elections. This year we can vote to protect our environment by supporting the Environmental Bond Act. Remember, our voices matter not only on election day, but at all times to convey our concerns to our representatives.

I invite you to join with our Civic Engagement Committee and participate in our Reform Movement’s, Every Voice, Every Vote Campaign, to help increase voter turnout. We are partnering with the non-partisan Common Ground for the Common Good and sending postcards to people in other states who may be in danger of being dropped from the rolls, encouraging them to register and vote.

So, did Abraham pass the test? In the end, Isaac is not sacrificed. The ram that suddenly appeared is offered in his place. But God never speaks to Abraham again. And Abraham walks down the mountain – alone. He never sees or speaks to Isaac again.
Will we pass the test of protecting our children? This is the challenge articulated in the moving words of the poet Amanda Gordon, written the morning after the Uvalde shooting:

“Hymn for the Hurting”
Everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
As horror,
As heritage.
Even our children
Cannot be children,
Cannot be.
Everything hurts.
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.
May 5783 be a time of such change. Strengthen us, O God, in our resolve to act so as to protect and cherish our children and the generations to come.

Seeing New Possibilities, Renni S. Altman, DD

“Seeing New Possibilities”
A Sermon for Erev Rosh HaShanah 5783
Rabbi Renni S. Altman, DD
Vassar Temple

How many of you have seen images from the James Webb Space telescope? Pretty awesome, right? I have to admit, astronomy is not my thing. I actually dropped Intro to Astronomy with Carl Sagan in college because I just couldn’t follow what he was saying. Those images, though, are simply mind boggling.

When they were first revealed this summer, President Biden captured our amazement at what NASA described as our deepest view into our universe’s past, when he said “We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before.”

Seeing possibilities. This really is the essence of these Yamim Noraim. We set aside these days annually to search within ourselves, striving to see possibilities we may have never seen before. Judaism begins the New Year with ten days of repentance precisely because we believe in the possibility of change. The past – things that happened to us or things we did – does not have to determine our future. We have the opportunity to write that ourselves, to choose how we will live.

Among the opening reflections in our mahzor is a teaching by Rabbi Laura Geller that underscores this fundamental principle of our faith:

“Your Book of Life doesn’t begin today, on Rosh HaShanah. It began when you were born. Some of the chapters were written by other people: your parents, siblings, and teachers. Parts of your book were crafted out of experiences you had because of other people’s decisions: where you lived, what schools you went to, what your homes were like. But the message of Rosh HaShanah, the anniversary of the creation of the world, is that everything can be made new again, that much of your book is written every day by the choices you make. The book is not written and sealed; you get to edit it, decide what parts you want to leave behind. Shanah tovah means both a good year, and a good change. Today you can change the rest of your life. It is never too late.”

The notion of choice, so fundamental in Judaism, is very empowering. It is the guiding principle of the work of psychologist, Dr. Edith Eva Eger. Her inspiring memoir, The Choice: Embrace the Possible, describes her incredible life story: a native of Hungary, she was 16 when she and her family were sent to Auschwitz. She and her sister survived; her parents perished. Today, in her 90s, Eger still maintains her psychology practice, lectures and serves as a consultant for the US Army and Navy in resiliency training and the treatment of PTSD. Her memoir interweaves with the stories of her patients her own life journey, the challenges she faced, and how she ultimately found healing from her traumatic past, eventually confronting her deepest pain by returning to Auschwitz. She empowers her patients to choose to break free from the experiences and thought processes that have imprisoned them and to embrace true freedom by opening their hearts to see the possible.

For many years Eger couldn’t bear to talk about Auschwitz, she didn’t even want her children to know that she was there and would get angry at her husband if he mentioned it. She struggled with flashbacks and survivor’s guilt. Then someone gave her Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. A key teaching in his book about how he survived the camps struck her deeply: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” “Each moment is a choice,” writes Eger. “No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. And I finally begin to understand that I, too, have choice. This realization will change my life.

The recognition that we have the power to choose how we respond to the experiences of our lives, while certainly powerful for those who have suffered trauma, is not limited to such dramatic situations. It is a lesson for anyone who has faced challenges, anyone who has wrestled with disappointments or experienced failure, anyone who has made mistakes – and that means all of us.

“We can’t choose to vanish the dark,” teaches Eger, “but we can choose to kindle the light.” We can choose to take a different path, to embrace new possibilities, but that will take effort and commitment on our part. As we all know, change isn’t easy. Our old prayer book for Selichot had a reading I appreciated as it expressed well the challenge of change:

“Now is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red and orange and yellow. The birds are beginning to turn towards the South in their annual migration. The animals are beginning to turn to store their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals turning comes instinctively. But for us turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to turn. It means breaking with old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means starting all over again, and this is always painful. It means saying, “I am sorry.” It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped for ever in yesterday’s ways.

These are the steps of Teshuva, of repentance, that our tradition lies out for us.

Eger offers her readers and patients a similar process. We can only change, we can only embrace the possible she writes “when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let of the past or the grief.”

We can begin to change when we take responsibility for our actions and recognize that we have a part in maintaining unhealthy patterns, that which keep us stuck in old ways, in fear, in anger. While it may be that others are responsible as well, if we absolve ourselves and only blame others or circumstances, then we give up the essential control of our lives that is necessary to become the person we want to be, the person we can be.

We will begin to change when we choose to take risks and dare to go down a different path. That means breaking out of old habits, leaving behind that which, while harmful, is familiar and, ironically, feels safe, to try something new. Certainly, it will be uncomfortable at first and it is to be unexpected that there may well be steps backwards, but if we persevere, we will be better for it in the long run.

Finally, embracing the possible requires letting go of the past, of the hurt, of the anger, of the grief. Where appropriate, it means forgiveness. In some cases, there is no possibility of or warrant for forgiveness; then there can only be an acceptance of what was and a separation from, a leaving behind, that can free us to move forward.

All too often, it is hardest to forgive ourselves. In so many of the patient stories that Eger shared in her book, people carried tremendous guilt for things for which they blamed themselves that were not at all in their control: the parents who couldn’t have prevented their son’s suicide, the woman who could not have fought back against the family friend who raped her as a child. It was only when, with Eger’s guidance, they were able to forgive themselves, for something that wasn’t their fault, that they were finally able to take important steps towards healing and change.

Speaking to an army unit that had just returned from combat in Afghanistan, a unit with a high suicide rate, Eger shared the importance of forgiving oneself: “to run away from the past or to fight against our present pain is to imprison ourselves. “Freedom is in accepting what is and forgiving ourselves, in opening our hearts to discover the miracles that exist now.”

For most of us, I would imagine, it is the ability to forgive ourselves for things that we have done wrong that is the challenge. Forgiving ourselves is an essential step in the process of teshuvah, of making amends with others for ways that we have hurt them. It is also essential if we are to learn from those mistakes and change in the future.

Dr. Maya Angelou paints a powerful picture of the impact that unforgiven mistakes can have on us: “I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes. It is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, “Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,” that’s all. So you say to yourself, “I’m sorry.”

If we all hold onto the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror. We can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.”

On Rosh Hashanah, we strive to see what we are capable of being, to see beyond the mistakes, beyond the pain, trauma, and disappointment, to “see possibilities we have never seen before.” We get to decide what parts of our Book of Life we want to carry forward and what we want to write anew, what we want to transform with a Shanah Tovah, a good change.

On Rosh Hashanah, we say Hayom Harat HaOlam – this is the world’s birthday. A colleague pointed out recently that this expression translates literally as “today, the world is pregnant.”
This is an instance where the literal translation is preferable to the idiomatic as it captures the Jewish attitude towards each new year:

It is pregnant with possibilities: the possibility of new beginnings, of starting over, of being different, of returning to who we really are and want to be. We believe in the possibility of change — in ourselves, in others, in our world.

May we be blessed with the strength, wisdom and open heartedness to discover new possibilities in this new year.

L’shanah tovah tikateivu – may you be written in the Book of Life for a good change this year.