This article is based upon an article that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.Info.
This week, Parshat Nitzavim, candle lighting in Brooklyn, NY will be at 6:54 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. Although Nitzavim is usually doubled up with Parshat Vayeilech, the upcoming year of 5776 is going to be a leap year, in which some Torah portions that are normally doubled are separated instead. On the Jewish calendar, a leap year has an entire extra month, a second month named Adar, which is called Adar II. Adar is the month in which Purim occurs, about a month before Passover.
This year, Rosh HaShanah 5776 starts on Sunday before sunset and lasts for two days. On the first day of the Jewish New Year, candles are lit in New York City at 6:51 PM.
This week, Chabad.org notes the historic refusal of Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers to play in the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur. This event, and the subsequent contributions of Mr. Koufax to winning the World Series resonated deeply with American Jewish baseball fans for decades afterwards.
Aish.com has a deeply troubling story about the resurgence of Nazi sympathies in Ukraine, a country that was hell on earth for Jews during World War II.
Aish.com also has a story by a man who was “called on the carpet” by his boss because of his failure to meet a deadline and the important insights the encounter gave him into the Jewish New Year and season of repentance.
This is the last Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, which is two days long. Rosh HaShanah starts Sunday evening at sunset. It is a serious time, in which we reflect upon ways in which we can improve our outlook and actions in the upcoming year.
Selichot are penitential prayer that have been said by Jews the last week before morning prayers. There is a serious air to Rosh HaShanah, which starts Sunday 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 interdependence, 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 and held together with a program that makes them work in precise harmony.
Reflecting upon the harmony within a computer and the unity combined with diversity within a tree makes one 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.