We are about to celebrate the Jewish New Year, a Rosh Hashanah like no other. Synagogues across America and the world are adjusting their services to the Covid-19 restrictions limiting physical gatherings. Besides the loss of lives, individual members and entire congregations have been deeply affected by the pandemic’s economic blows, wreaking havoc in rippling waves, which have fueled antisemites to blame Jews for the creation and spread of the virus. A somber future looks like the most realistic scenario, but this can definitely be changed if only we will see our fate as a single, seamlessly-shared project.
The opposite is happening now. Within American Jewry, division, self-hatred, and bickering signal an internal fragmentation which puts in jeopardy the continuity of a vibrant Jewish life now and for generations to come. Israel, politics, who is considered Jewish, these topics and more are igniting burning clashes within our community.
Interestingly, Covid-19 arrived without paying attention to who is religious and who is secular, left-wing or right-wing. Meanwhile, we fail to look at the big picture which is the threatening crisis caused by a virus that disregards no one. Covid-19 appeared and halted regular life with the clear purpose of making us reflect on ourselves and our egoistic perspectives toward others and our surroundings.
How can we grasp a global view when we are so busy with quarrels and fights? Sadly, we enter the holiday season with blinders on, preoccupied with getting back to the routine and to our usual power struggles, caring only about our personal interests.
It’s high time for us to stop in our tracks and take a firm hold on the new year as a unique opportunity for introspection and change. Rosh Hashanah, from the Hebrew “Rosh Hashinui,” marks not only the beginning of the Hebrew calendar, but also symbolizes renewal—a time for inner evaluation of our thoughts toward others and the intention behind our actions.
We are currently ruled by our intellect that immediately makes calculations about how to best pursue egoistic relationships for self-benefit, stirring up separation and conflict. The time has come to be inspired by a higher, more comprehensive and steady mindset, one that will help us to open our eyes and recognize our exhausting and fruitless struggles in life and choose change instead.
How is such a meaningful transformation possible? Through the power of nature—a force that works consistently to unite all the details of reality, that embraces and connects us all as one, that transcends our limited and selfish views—profound change is assured.
Our problem is that we are currently in a state opposite to nature where everything works in balance. Due to our lack of integration with the larger system in which we live through our broken relations with each other, nature will continue amplifying the impact of the pandemic until we react and unite. Our lives are already ruled by closures, restrictions, uncertainty, and every successive blow will be even more painful than the last until we make efforts to improve the connection in our human relations.
However, there is no need to wait for the situation to get worse. Things can get better if we will begin to ask what the root cause of the coronavirus is, learn from life what is essential for us to exist, and approach one another in a healthy and considerate way. Like the round and connected natural world around us, nature is trying to teach us to live in harmony and peace out of a desire to do good to others, implementing the ultimate Jewish tenet, “love thy neighbor as yourself” and transforming our hearts.
We awaken the force that propels a positive change when we take a step toward connection, when we get closer and reduce the huge gaps between us. We may do it either against our own will or proactively with open hearts. We do not even need to erase the negative feelings and disagreements between us, but only to rise above them in the spirit of, “love will cover all crimes.” (Proverbs 10:12)
In a nutshell, the power of love we activate through the connection of our hearts, above everything tearing us apart, is precisely what will sweeten our fate as Jewish people and as individuals, keeping us strong and healthy. Happy Rosh Hashanah!