This article is based upon an article that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.Info.
This week, Parshat Nitzavim Vayeilech, candle lighting in Brooklyn, NY will be at 6:41 PM. Chabad.org has a convenient section of their site for looking up candle lighting time in your locality, as well as other sections with articles that can be printed out to read on Shabbat.
There are many Jews who make sacrifices for keeping Shabbat. Most people who are sabbath observant feel that the gains vastly outweigh the losses. Jewish people in Israel who are farmers have the additional commandment of Shemittah, which involves letting the land rest for an entire year. The upcoming New Year of 5775 is a shemittah year. Chabad.org has an article about a Jewish farmer who has kept eight shemittah years in his lifetime.
Aish.com likewise has articles and multimedia. Both sites provide hours of reading, viewing and listening enjoyment and enlightenment. This week, Aish.com has an article “Maximizing Your One Shot at Life that details how to reach personal growth goals that underlie the resolutions we make to improve in the upcoming Rosh Hashanah.
This is the last Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, which is two days long. Rosh HaShanah starts Wednesday evening at sunset, the time of which can be looked up on Chabad.org and other Jewish web sites.Among Ashkenazim and some chassidim, Selichot are started this Saturday night, usually around midnight.
Selichot are penitential prayers. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Selichot are said before morning prayers. There is a serious air to Rosh HaShanah, which starts Wednesday evening since it is a day in which the entire world, nation by nation, individual by individual and creation by creation is judged for the upcoming year. We do not wish each other a “happy new year, although we certainly wish each other happiness. A day in which the Supreme Judge passes judgment on the entire world is a serious day indeed.
On the Jewish New Year, there are no party hats and whistles at midnight. Our year arrives with the setting of the sun. As we go to synagogue, the setting sun reminds us that a year has passed, that we could have accomplished more, and that we can plan a better year ahead. There is a serene and awesome quality to the day, which comes with a chill in the air and the start of falling leaves, reminding us that nothing is forever. There is the consolation of knowing that we are a part of something greater, something that lives through us and after us.
The chill of autumn and the falling of leaves from the trees evoke thoughts of the impermanence of our existence, how one generation passes on and another comes forth, and how we are all connected. From what we now know of the function of leaves, that they are part of how a tree survives.
Trees are not only wonders in their own right, but a source of many different metaphors. Each part looks vastly different, from the bark to the leaves to the fruit or seeds in whatever form they take. All parts of the tree are physically connected and part of a harmonious system. It is open and obvious that the different parts of the tree need each other for their survival, that the tree stands together with all its parts.
What would human existence be like if we all recognised our interdependency, if we realised that stock workers and doctors, agricultural labourers and accountants are all part of a vast network? Not only between classes is there a connection but also between nations. There is a beauty to looking at the inside of a computer or appliance and seeing components from different countries, designed in one nation and assembled in yet another place so that they work in precise harmony.
Reflecting upon the harmony within a computer and the unity combined with diversity within a tree makes me long for the day when our oneness will be revealed, when all nations and individuals will work together to realise the unity that is so clearly evident in the functioning of trees, cars and electronics.
May it be G-d’s will that our yearning and striving for revealed oneness be manifestly successful in the upcoming year.
Shabbat Shalom and a blessed year to all.