Rosh Hashana is almost upon us. Friday night, we will gather within our own community and, additionally, with Jews around the world. Likewise, we join ourselves to the generations of Jews that have come before us. And we take our place as a transition to the many generations of Jews that, we hope, will follow us.
An awesome place to be. And comforting, as well, to know that we are not alone; that we are a part of something larger than ourselves; that the words we will speak, the prayers that we’ll utter, the melodies that we’ll sing are the ligaments that bind us to one another, to all of history, and to God.
How do we get ready for that? Certainly not by stumbling into it. Or backing into it. Or rushing into it.
I hope that my thoughts these past few weeks have given you pause or, better yet, have awakened something within you that always was there but of which now you are aware. I hope I’ve provided tools by which you can prepare for these ten days of awe, of reflection, of growth and transformation.
Where does one start? Wherever you are. And where are you headed? No one knows.
And if you don’t feel up to the task? You are. Because whatever you need is within you. And if that internal guide directs you to find others to help you with this journey, well, it always is doing that. Maybe you’re just ready to heed it.
To do this kind of preparation – to consider where you are, where you’ve been, where you want to go – is to live life with intention. To live b’chavana. To live freely, choosing your path forward rather than being pushed into it or just continuing with the same-old, same-old.
These ten days of reflection, then, are just a microcosm of what an intentional life can look like. Or, vice-versa, if you want to know what an intentional life looks like, think of it as holidays-around-the-year.
This Year: More Aids for Intentional Living
This is what our program team had in mind when it chose our learning theme for the year: “How to Be Human: Spiritual Wisdom for Living (at our age) In The 21st Century.”
Throughout the year, we’ll provide opportunities to learn; to see from a new perspective; to draw upon the wisdom of the ages; to share ideas and experiences with friends. We’ll use a variety of modes: films, books, study of philosophers, discussion groups, Torah learning, and more. I’ll lead some of these; members of the team will lead others.
I think this focus is so important for three reasons.
One, we live in a culture that is, has been, and will be so focused on the “hows” and “whats” of living that it pays no heed to the “why?”
Second, that same culture orients itself around producing and consuming. I am seeing more and more clearly the degree to which workers are considered – and treated – not like the multi-dimensional sacred beings that they are but as tools; cogs; robots; slaves. Produce what we want you to produce and we’ll compensate you what we want to compensate you. Then go home and spend it on the things we produce.
Finally, while we all are not at the exact same place in life our age and stage are similar. How often have we talked about looking back at the families we’ve nurtured, the careers we’ve built, the things we’ve accomplished? Some have chosen retirement; some are preparing for retirement; some are wishing for retirement. What will that look like? What do I want it to look like? And we’re caring for our aging parents and still, can you believe it, trying to help our kids while simultaneously staying out of the way.
Jewish thinkers of the last century like Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel had a lot to say about how to be a human being and how to remain human – and humane – within this culture and this context. Likewise, with some Jewish thinkers today. So, we’ll spend some time with them, learning from their insights so as to make this leg of our journey as rich a one as possible.
I’m excited about this theme and exploring it with you.
Until then, Susan and I wish you and your families the healthiest and most joyous and most intentional of new years. May it be sweet and exciting and filled with growth. And may we, in the B’Chavana community, continue to bring sweetness and excitement and growth to one another.
L’shana tova tikatevu,