Dear Rabbi Fried,
As the High Holidays are approaching, I have this feeling in my gut that it’s going to be like previous years that I’m not really sure what to be thinking about. I’m a very goal-oriented person, and my problem with the holidays is that I don’t really have any set goal to accomplish during this period, and all my training in business school didn’t teach me how to set goals for Rosh Hashanah. Can you please help me?
The truth is, without knowing you and what you need spiritually, it’s difficult to help you set your goals, since each person connects in a different way to these special days. However, I’ve been thinking about some ideas that would apply to everyone, and perhaps these thoughts will help guide you.
R’ Moses Maimonides, the classical Jewish scholar and philosopher, writes a powerful message for the Day of Judgment on Rosh Hashanah. Every individual should view him- or herself as if they are in balance, with equal merits and demerits. Thus, one should view the city and country they live in, that it is a similar balance, exactly half-and-half. Similarly, he or she should view the entire world, that the scale measuring all the world’s merits and demerits is balanced in the middle. Therefore, writes R’ Maimonides, one action done by the individual can tip the scale for themselves, their city, country and the entire world, for the good, or the opposite.
This is a very powerful message, one that should impress upon us the truly awesome significance of our every action, and how much each individual counts and can make a difference in the eyes of G-d. We are not insignificant specks of dust among billions of other inhabitants of earth, but any one of us could be the one that will tip the balance and affect G-d’s judgment of the world for the upcoming year.
A cursory glance at world events shows us how much the world, especially the Jewish world, is hanging in balance this coming year. Antisemitism runs rampant in Europe, which, in the words of Simon Wiesenthal, equals that of the days of Nazi Germany preceding the war. The United Nations and international courts spend their days passing judgments against the state of Israel, outlawing her basic right to defend herself from acts unprecedented in the history of man. There was a judgment, an election, which may very well affect the future of Israel and, consequently, all of world Jewry. Israel is surrounded by enemies, especially Iran, which is tightening the noose around us. This is a year in which we are in need of much Heavenly mercy to pass through safely.
The message of R’ Maimonides is that we can all make a difference, and it provides for all of us a goal to accomplish during the High Holiday season. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the days to make positive Jewish New Year’s resolutions, to take a step toward our relationships with G-d.
What that resolution is — is very individual and depends upon where you personally stand in that relationship and what is needed to enhance it. To study more Torah is always in place; that will open doors to understanding what practices there are.
Whatever positive step you take, hopefully that will be the one which will evoke the mercy of Heaven to bless the Jewish people and the entire world with a sweet new year.
May it be a new year of peace, tranquility, prosperity and Jewish growth for you and all the readers.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.