High Holy Days 5779 Message
The Yamim Nora’im that begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur are days that tremble with introspection, spiritual rebirth, reflection and teshuvah – positive, transforming repentance for oneself and for those around us. These days call for intense and authentic feelings to return our hearts and minds to inspiration and wonder. The objective of this penetrating period is tremendously challenging: instead of calm and peace, it calls for active evaluation, and if necessary, an actual revolution in our internal status quo as we search for a better life for ourselves and for those we love.
A Rabbi relates this episode from the third day of the Six Day War in June 1967, when Israeli soldiers finally managed to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, fighting to achieve a clear objective: Liberation of the Kotel HaMa’aravi – the Western Wall.
The paratroopers & commanders of Reserve Battalion 55 were mostly in their late 20’s and early 30’s; they trembled in the confusion of post-combat emotions, of the deaths of many friends in battle, of relief at their own survival, and especially, the overwhelming knowledge that they had achieved the chief aspiration of the Jewish People for more than 1800 years. Embracing, placing their hands upon the ancient slabs of rock, kissing the last vestige of the structure that sustained the Great Temple, most were in tears.
While so many were awed in this divine instant of redemption, two friends, comrades-in-arms in the midst of this commotion, stood together in bewilderment, momentarily unable to process their feelings, when one of them suddenly burst into uncontrollable sobs. Surprised his friend asked “Why? Why are you crying?”
Looking into his friend’s eyes through curtains of tears, he said: “Because, because I discovered that I can do it, because I found part of my spirit that slept inside me. I cry for our friends who died to return this piece of History to our People, because I understand that we have just made history. And I’m full of joy, because I read more meanings in the tears of others than those I recognized… and it seems that I begin to understand them. I cry because their tears remind me that I am alive, that I can think and feel intensely, that I am moved by all this. I am crying … and I’m happy that I can cry …”
The thread of this story, of retaking our capacity to be moved, to cry freely, to lose ourselves in laughter, is exactly the message of the Yamim Nora’im, the process in the Days of Awe that opens with Rosh Hashanah and closes on Yom Kippur. It must start from the most obscure and dormant depths of our souls; and if we do not recover so that our souls vibrate with life … how can we improve? How will we distinguish between the fatuous & vain and what brings true happiness & fulfillment? The Days of Awe urge us to return tenaciously and swiftly to the virtue we had as children, to feel everything with intensity, to appreciate every minute of our lives. We cannot truly reflect, we cannot change without breaking the passivity of our souls, without abandoning our conformism, without rejecting our apathy.
We can achieve all that during Rosh Hashanah 5779 and these Days of Awe; we can seek and find the paths to our interior souls, to see clearly in the commotion, and grasp the opportunity to significantly reconnect with ourselves, with others, and with God, the source that inspires us to see the light shining from each human being and from the whole Creation.
May God grant us continuing joy this New Year in the enormous pleasure that arises from the strength of our profound meetings with those around us;
May God grant that a fullness of blessings for ourselves
and for all Humankind will attend this New Year of 5779;
And may God grant us the continued joy of seeing
the development, growth and strengthening of everything we value and hold dear,
the State, the People of Israel, and our Maccabim all over the world.
With best wishes,
LeShanah Tovah ticatevu vetechatemu!
May you and yours be inscribed for a Good Year!
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union