A Message for the New Year
As 5783 comes to a close (and I’m still writing 5782 on my checks!) and we approach the High Holidays, it’s always worthwhile to take stock in how this past year has gone, and what we can do to further grow and change as Jews for the upcoming year. In my upcoming sermons we’ll be focusing in on the concepts of Teshuva, Anavah, and Zikaron: Repentance, Humility, and Remembrance. To be honest, I don’t really like any of those English renditions, and feel like there is a lot lost in translation, so I’ll try to prime the pump by giving you a better sense of what these words mean.
Teshuva literally means return, reply or even answer. It’s related to turning, and it is about refocusing our lives, about changing the trajectory towards which we are travelling. Our lives don’t travel in straight lines, and we often meander to the left or right, or find ourselves moving in circles, but the more often we can take stock, and look at where we are going, the greater ability we have to shepherd ourselves in the direction we want to go.
Anavah is often translated as humility, but it is often mired down in the concepts of meekness, and modesty, or the act of lowering ourselves. Perhaps there is virtue in this, as it allows us to really see the divine spark in others when we lower ourselves. I would argue that we are better served by not lowering ourselves in our own estimation as we would be rather by raising others up to a higher level.
Zikaron can be memory, memorial or remembrance, but in the Hebrew it connotes much more than a simple cerebral activity. Judaism, in general, is much more that what happens inside the boundaries of our brains or our hearts, but rather in the actions we perform in the outside world. Our set of Mitzvot, commandments, are all about how we function in society, practically, and Zikaron is no different. There is a long tradition of connecting acts of charity with Zikaron. This is the reason we have the High Holiday appeal on Yom Kippur: It’s not that you are simply donating so that we can have a new roof, or the enhanced security features, but rather by participating in acts of Tzedakka, righteousness, we are connecting the memory of those who have passed with the good deeds, that only those of us still living can actuate.
I hope this simple Hebrew lesson adds a little bit more meaning to your High Holiday experience, and as the kids say: “Like and Subscribe” for the full story.