These High Holidays are given to us so that we may renew our commitment to our tradition and to each other. We gather for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as well so that we can rekindle our commitment to improving ourselves and our world. Let us gain inspiration from Elie Wiesel’s words as these tasks draw nearer. Wiesel writes:
I remember: as a child, on the other side of oceans and mountains, the Jew in me would anticipate Rosh Hashanah with fear and trembling.
He still does.
On that Day of Awe, I believed then, nations and individuals, Jewish and non-Jewish, are being judged by their common creator.
That is still my belief.
In spite of all that happened? Because of all that happened?
I still believe that to be Jewish today means what it meant yesterday and a thousand years ago. It means for the Jew in me to seek fulfillment both as a Jew and as a human being. For a Jew, Judaism and humanity must go together. To be Jewish today is to recognize that every person is created in the image of God and that our purpose in living is to be a reminder of God.
Naturally, I claim total kinship with my people and its destiny. Judaism integrates particularist aspirations with universal values, fervor with vigor, legend with law. Being Jewish to me is to reject all fanaticism anywhere.
To be Jewish is, above all, to safeguard memory and open its gates to the celebration of life as well as to the suffering, to the song of ecstasy as well as to the tears of distress that are our legacy as Jews. It is to rejoice in the renaissance of Jewish sovereignty in Israel and the reawakening of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. It is to identify with the plight of Jews living under oppressive regimes and with the challenges facing our communities in free societies.
A Jew must be sensitive to the pain of all human beings. A Jew cannot remain indifferent to human suffering, whether in other countries or in our own cities and towns. The mission of the Jewish people has never been to make the world more Jewish, but to make it more human.
Shanah tovah u’metukah—A happy, sweet near year,