“We don’t want to end the life of our enemy; we want to transform the heart.” – Rabbi Aaron Bergman, in his Rosh Hashanah sermon, 5775, 9/25/14
What a powerful concept.
As a new year dawns for me and my brethren, I ponder this message, remembering how my eyes filled with tears upon hearing the words spoken to a packed room of hundreds upon hundreds of parishioners.
Dressed in our holiday finest, many people who never come to synagogue at any other time of the year, we filed into the sanctuary, which seats 1,000, and the social hall, which probably held nearly as many, and packed both rooms full, eager to turn over a new leaf, start a new year different than we ended the last.
During the service, a group of men harmonized the prayers in beautiful song. We read prayers for our country, for Israel, for the armed forces here and there, wishing safety and peace and love upon all. We prayed that our government make good choices, right choices, and I was acutely aware that prayer is simply a reminder for oneself – it’s not looking out for others as much as it is an awakening that we are part of the cosmic truth, and everyone, every situation, is a mirror.
Argument can lead to understanding, you know. As long as you have compassion and an open heart. When you care enough to engage in argument, you have a great chance of resolution at the outcome, and perhaps a deeper appreciation for the other person’s position.
It’s when conversation shuts down that we begin to lose.
Last night, my parents and my sister’s family gathered around my holiday table. It was the largest crowd yet in our new dining room and we made it work. I served matzoh ball soup, homemade challah and gluten-free challah, salad and deli roll, two kinds of chicken, couscous with vegetables, squash soufflé and tsimmes like my grandmother used to make. I forgot to serve the beets.
My daughter made apple cake pops coated in white chocolate and caramel. We dipped apple slices in honey for a sweet year, said blessings over wine and bread.
And then the kids dispersed to play with their cousins in the cooling night.
A beginning, any beginning, even the dawning of a new day, is another chance. A blessing upon our heads and our hearts. A gift to change.
I am so grateful for the chance to start over. God knows I say and do things at times that I wish I didn’t, so it’s good to know we can regenerate, begin again.
And then when we get it right, we have the opportunity to be humble, to be human, to be new like a baby opening his eyes for the very first time, to see things clearly, the vision of the angels.
We don’t wish death upon anyone. We wish peace and clear sight, so that we have a chance of uniting with all beings toward true and lasting peace.