Dear Readers,

Is it just me, or is it also hard for you to believe that Rosh Hashanah is around the corner? Thinking back to this time last year, so much has changed.

The coronavirus hit hard, and many of us lost so much. Some have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs or financial stability. Some of us continue to yearn for intimate social gatherings. Many of us missed out on monumental events like a birth or marriage, or at the other end of the spectrum, a funeral or shiva call.

And yet, despite all the things that we lost, I also reflect on the many blessings that I have gained over the past year.

Just a little more than a month ago, I was doubly blessed with the birth of twin grandsons. I have had the opportunity to meet many people from across the world on Zoom classes. I have been blessed with seeing (or hearing) my children and grandchildren growing in beautiful ways. I have been blessed to see so many of my bleak worries of “what will be” not materialize. I have lived through many sunsets and sunrises, while gaining a new appreciation for what I had taken for granted.

As I prepare to face the holy days of Rosh Hashanah, I wonder what this coming year will bring.

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16b) states: “Rabbi Kruspidai in the name of Rabbi Yochanan says, ‘Three books are opened before G‑d on Rosh Hashanah. One is for the completely wicked, one is for the completely righteous and one is for those in the middle. The completely righteous are inscribed and sealed to life, the irredeemably wicked are inscribed and sealed for death, and for those in the middle, the judgement is hanging from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur … ”

In the stirring Unetaneh Tokef prayer, we specify:

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning, who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued, who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low, who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi teaches (Maamar, Atem Nitzavim) that who will merit a higher revelation of spiritual welfare is also determined: “The judgment on Rosh Hashanah includes the determination of whether a person is considered worthy of having a live connection with his inner G‑dly essence or whether it will remain concealed in the hidden reaches of his heart.”

So much has happened in the past year and so much more can happen in the coming year. These days are awesomely powerful, full of opportunity and replete with promise for every one of us.

Wishing you a happy and sweet year!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW