On Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, we often greet one another with, “Shanah Tovah u Metukah” – “Happy Good And Sweet Year”. Today, Friday 22, 2017, is the second day of the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The literal translation of Rosh is “head”, as in head of the year, and it symbolizes the 5778 birthday (according to the Torah) of the creation of the first human being. “So God created Man and His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This primordial man who was called Adam, was later (on the sixth day) divided into two separate beings. “This shall be called Woman, for from man was she taken. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). After all the work was done “And God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Since the described story, many things and events have happened in human history. But what went across the Torah narrative was the concept of choice. Toward the end of the fifth book, called Deuteronomy, Moses tells his people in his final words, “See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, death and the evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15). And then He reiterates, “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse, and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offsprings” (Deuteronomy 30:19). From the beginning of the creation till the fulfillment of their life’s journey, and before crossing the boundary and entrance into a promised land, the Israelites were presented with a choice. If we would follow God’s guidance, we would choose the life and the good.
In the Jewish tradition, at the end of the second day of the Rosh Hashanah there is another greeting “G’mar Hatimah Tovah”, which means “A good final sealing”. According to the Jewish calendar, that time is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when all the decrees for each person for the next year are going to be sealed.
During those ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are called Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe, one has an opportunity to ask God for the appeal of the judgement for our lives for the next year and, forgiveness for our transgressions. This is accomplished through prayer and good deeds. But how do we know what is expected from us, and which good choices to make?
In the book “Talks on the Parasha” Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinzaltz writes: “When the Torah says that we have before us “life and good”, sometimes a shell must be cracked to reveal the good. Sometimes one must chew quite a lot before the good can be tasted. Sometimes one must educate himself, and many years might pass until one can discern what is truly good. Things that are obviously good are easily perceived, but to perceive the things that are truly good, one must develop this skill over time.” As always, it is easier said than done.
Doing good is always about others, though we might get personal satisfaction from the act. One of the opportunities is to help those whom you do not know personally. Recently I met Jessica Hansen, the Global Engagement Manager for the international organization KIVA. This is a remarkable lending organization. If you would like to do something good, check their website www.kiva.org. and get involved. Your small loan might change a person’s life.
Another perhaps more unusual way of doing good is to get a puppy. You might be wondering what is good about that? Well, here I would like to quote Rabbi Steinzaltz again. “Things that are obviously good are easily perceived, but to perceive the things that are truly good, one must develop this skill over time.” Perhaps this is why for our fiftieth anniversary, I got us a gift – a ten week young labradoodle puppy. Stay tuned. Make it a Good Year!
P.S. One of the four images of our puppy Max show him on Elfa’s shoulder when we just met him 18 days ago. He is very handsome, as you can see from the other images. There is one more good thing which is happening this year. On the day when we got Max, I started working on my next book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers. Plus 42 Days in Max’s Life.” I intend to finish this photo story-book before the celebration of the other New Year 2018.
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