Dvar Israel: Shabbat, September 23, 2017

HA’AZINU, ROSH HASHANAH AND THE UN PEACE DAY

Hello everyone. It’s hard to believe, but I have been here in your loving community for a month now. It has been an amazing month and a beginning of a new experience. During this month in Toronto, I was amazed to see the strength of the Jewish community here, not only in numbers, but in spirit and unity. I was shocked to see how everything in this community is not a matter of fact for you guys, and nothing is taken for granted. You choose to come to Shul, you may choose to send your kids to a Jewish day school, Sunday school or summer camp, and you definitely choose to become active and committed members of this massive community.

This week we read parashat “Ha’azinu”. Moses tells his people not to be ungrateful and not to take anything for granted. He is worried that when the Jewish people will settle in in Kna’an they will fall into a routine where everyone minds their own business and forgets where they came from. For me, one of the central themes of Rosh Hashanah is a reminder that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. The High Holidays are also a special time of year in Israel. In fact, things may not be all that different here in comparison to Israel. We also start cooking months ahead, we also fill up our dining rooms to full capacity, we also regret eating that extra piece of honey cake. Yet, what is unique and beautiful about Israel during the holidays is the change in atmosphere, especially in places where you would least expect it. Random people greet strangers “Shanah Tova” on the bus and in the supermarket. Every single commercial and billboard will have a greeting for the good year to come. You even see it on every electricity or water bill. And then there is the radio. Galgalatz, one of our most famous radio stations in Israel, has an annual hit parade with all the best Israeli songs from this year, as well as all-time greatest hits. Personally, I love cooking with my mom on Rosh Hashanah, and we always love blasting the radio as we find out what the greatest hits are this year while cooking together in the kitchen.

Rosh Hashanah speaks about new beginnings, about a fresh start, a new mindset. Not too long ago, we were fighting for the State of Israel, for it’s existence and safety. Then we pushed Israel forward technologically, economically, educationally. But today, what do we wish to achieve? Toward what do we strive? I personally feel that we, just like B’nei Israel, have become a bit ungrateful, we forgot where we came from. And Rosh Hashanah is the best time to remind ourselves that we are never done, there is always more to wish for and to achieve.

On September 21st, the UN recognized its annual International Peace Day, and this year its theme was - Together for Peace. The purpose of this day is to provide a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to doing peaceful deeds. I believe that it is not an accident that this day and the weekly parasha aligned with each other. Rosh Hashanah and the parasha and even International Peace Day- they all connect. They are a reminder to always broaden our horizons, think about others and strive to be better people. Rosh Hashanah is all about reflecting on the past year, and looking ahead to the year to come. My wish this year is, personally, to be grateful, and globally, to be peaceful.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tova U’Metukah!

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