As we approach the final Shabbat of this Jewish year, 5782, the world around us seems filled with confusion, anxiety, fear and (hopefully) some hope.
We have lost our dearly beloved Queen Elizabeth. The only monarch many of us have ever known.
We are confronted by a war in Ukraine that has now been going on since February. One of my sisters-in-law, Katya, is from the town of Kharkiv located just 30 kilometres south of the Russia–Ukraine border. She has manged to bring out her mother and grandmother (a holocaust survivor) and is assisting many other families to find refuge in the UK. There are millions of displaced people in Eastern Europe.
Putin is threatening retaliation for his losses and is even hinting at the use of nuclear weapons – something we would have thought would be impossible not that long ago.
People are fearful of finding themselves in fuel poverty and having to choose between eating and heating their homes. Inflation in general is making our weekly shop more expensive. The rising interest rates are a concern for many, especially if they have mortgages which are not on a fixed rate, or they are on a fixed rate that will shortly end.
Covid might or might not be returning. Hundreds of thousands are suffering from long Covid and feel left behind as the authorities behave as if the pandemic is over. Is it over? No one really knows or can predict. I certainly hope so and most of us are now living our lives as if it is over.
I often hear the fears of concerned parents about the ways in which their children are seduced by mobile phones and toxic social media apps. There is a general consensus that our children are being damaged by over-use of screens and the cyber bulling that takes place online away from the eyes of diligent parents.
We feel a need for stability and continuity in such an uncertain world.
And this is why our religious traditions and spiritual practices are so vital at this time. We know that Rosh Hashana will come round every year, followed by Yom Kippur and then Succot.
We are comforted by the familiar tunes, the familiar words, the familiar faces, and spaces.
Whatever is going on outside, here it is safe, predictable, and known. We have a unique opportunity to dedicate time to be with our family, our friends, our community, and our God (however you understand that word).
So, I look forward to seeing all of you over the next few weeks. I will be in Elstree for the 1st day of Rosh Hashana and in Edgware for the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana and all of Yom Kippur. Please do come and say hello.
Let us come together to sing, to pray, to talk and, of course, to eat. Perhaps most importantly, let us come together and support each other as we take our first tentative steps into the new Jewish year, 5783.
Wishing you and families a Shabbat shalom and shana tovah u’metukah (a good and sweet new year).