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Rosh Hashanah 2nd Day: The Time of our Lives

Shanah Tovah to everyone! The special Mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to listen to the emotional sounds of the Shofar. Maimonides said that the central objective of the Shofar is to be an alarm clock for our soul. To wake us up from our somnolence and be aware of our flaws and the need to do Teshuva. This concept of doing Teshuva, lachzor bitshuva, sounds too frum to our ears and it is because, sadly, our Orthodox brethren have monopolised the term and if we hear Teshuva then we think of black and white clothes. Let’s rebrand the concept. To do Teshuva is to be conscious and take responsibility for our less desirable characteristics in a religious sense, yes, but more important those characteristics related to our relationships with our loved ones. Back to the Shofar. Friends, one of the most precious gifts we receive from God is time. Every single one of us receives every day 24 hours: old and young, rich and poor, men and women. All of us, as long as we are alive in this World. How are we going to use this gift is our decision and often we don’t make the wisest decision on this subject. How many people do you know that look back and say: “Mmm… I should have spent more time in my office”, instead of those that say: “Mmm… what a shame I didn’t spent more time with my children, with my family, with my friends” or “Why didn’t I go in that trip I always wanted to go?” or “Why didn’t I spend more time helping others?”. Of course working and earning a living is important and we do have to dedicate much time to it, but we must have a correct set of priorities. We all know the difference between the urgent things and the important ones and we all, as well, know how often we waste our time with the urgent and we postpone the important because we are sure we will have enough time for it later, that we will always have more time. Sadly, we never really know how much time we have and Rosh Hashanah reminds us of this. Last Rosh Hashanah, at least 80 people who lived in Grenfell Tower did not know they would perish in fire in June 2017, nor another 80 knew they would die by water in the Hurricanes Irma and Harvey this past month. Last Rosh Hashanah, at least 139 people in Mexico didn’t know they would die in the terrible Earthquake that hit them only yesterday. Last Rosh Hashanah, people in Finland, Barcelona, Jerusalem, London, Manchester, Sweden, Quebec and many other places, whether they were Jewish or not; didn’t know they would become victims of terrorist attacks. As a Star Wars fan, I had an amazing experience in July last year going to the Europe Star Wars Celebration in London, I even took my daughter Hallel with me to initiate her in the ways of the Force. The highlight was to meet “the” Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, who commented about how cute Hallel is and gave me an autograph. Only 5 months later, 3 months after last Rosh Hashanah, Carrie Fisher died of cardiac arrest, becoming one with the Force. Every life is precious, every human being created in God’s image. All violence is tragic. We just don’t know how much time we have left and this has to make us humble and more willing to enjoy every moment, to don’t leave the important conversations or actions for later. In the Yamim Noraim the tradition gives us the opportunity to think about our lives and about how do we use the time that was given to us. In the famous prayer “Unetane Tokef”, we say that the key words are: Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka. Teshuva, return to the correct path, return to ourselves, is about the relationship with ourselves. Tefila, prayers, is about the relationship between us and God and the Divine. Tzedaka, social justice, is about the relationship between us and our fellow members of society. The process of Teshuva forces us to ask ourselves the difficult questions. Did we grow as human beings during this last year? Are we better men and women than a year ago? Why? What do we have to still improve? Prayer is our dialogue with Hashem, a dialogue that if we are attentive enough we will be able to hear back and not only to speak. During services we also connect through the fantastic liturgy of these days with the generations that came before us and that together with us form the eternal chain of the People of Israel. We ask for the really important things: health, happiness, love, continuity, and meaning. The Tzedaka is the good that we do for others, that it is not always money, it can be also time that we dedicate to people that need us, to our community, to the causes we believe in. Dear friends, we know that we won’t live forever and in Rosh Hashanah, the traditional birthday of humankind, we are called to be accountable for this precious gift: time. We are accountable first of all, of course, to ourselves. We want God to give us another year of life because we know that we didn’t develop all of our potential and we want another chance. This is the call of the Shofar, to wake us up and not sleep through life, to seize the time that was given to us. The three sounds of the Shofar have this objective: Tekia, long, symbolizes the soul inside us, the Divine spark within. Shevarim, three broken sounds, say to us that we lost our way and we forgot the objective. Only when we are aware of this, we get to Terua, a series of very short sounds that symbolize our cry and anguish about our transgressions and sins. The Baal Shem Tov, the first Hassidic Master, used to say that there is nothing more whole than a broken heart, so if we get to Trua with a broken heart and a whole soul we will arrive to the goal: Tekia Gdola, the Tikkun, the mending of our soul and all the holy inside ourselves. This symbolism is beautiful and wise, let’s use it. When we hear the Shofar let’s think about how do we use our time, about Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka, let’s look for the way back to our Divine spark inside. Let’s hear and do and then hear again.

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