“Blessed shall you be in your comings and blessed shall you be in your goings”
As we stand with our ancestors and heed the final exhortations of the great lawgiver of our people in the final chapters of Sefer Devarim (the book of Deuteronomy), we understand that the stakes are higher as they have ever been. Preparing to complete our wanderings and enter the Promised Land, Moses forcibly reminds us that our prosperity and success in this land is anything but guaranteed. On the contrary, our people’s destiny will be determined by our commitment to the laws and customs we have received, thereby maintaining our relationship with the Eternal One who so graciously granted it to us. Rather than submit to a destiny over which we have no control, our sacred text teaches that our fate lies solely in our own hands.
Similarly, we stand on the precipice of a new month and a new year on the Hebrew calendar. Most importantly, the upcoming holiday season is one where the stakes are raised considerably. As our liturgy so often explains, on Rosh Hashana it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Our actions, decisions, and intentions leading in to the High Holiday season will determine our fortunes for the upcoming year. As part of a culture that largely rejects pre-destination, and as modern Jews who view humanity as being in partnership with God rather than submissive to Divine will, the core theme of the High Holidays may challenge us in a variety of ways.
Long gone are the days of Ancient Greek literature, where the Fates issue the final decree on a person’s destiny. Also gone are the days when the fate of our people rested in the hands of foreign powers. Instead, we now live in an age where we have the sacred right to determine the destination towards which our community wishes to progress. We do have the power to determine our own destiny in the way we treat each other and those with whom we share our allotment.
As the time of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness creeps closer, may we heed the exhortations of our teacher Moses, and choose to bring blessing, rather than curse, in to the world. May we give thanks and praise to the God of our ancestors, who allowed us the opportunity to live and thrive not only in this land, but also in many other lands throughout the world. On Rosh Hashana it will be written, and on Yom Kippur, our fates during the coming year will be sealed. Through our kindness and forgiveness in the coming weeks, let us ensure that the upcoming year is one of growth, of blessing, and of peace not only for us, but for all of humanity.
כן יהי רצון
May it be God’s Will
Student Rabbi Ross Z. Levy