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L'Shannah Tova -- Happy New Year

Due to my never-ending search for the sublime and the ridiculous (preferably together)  I was delighted to run across an unfortunate but funny hyphenation in “The Challenge of the Soul” by Rabbi Niles Goldstein.  The word “discusses” broke across two lines, so the next line began “cusses God.”  Any rabbi who writes about cussing God is certainly going to make me sit up and pay attention.

Not that I’m much for cussing God.  Truth be told, I have little patience for people who get angry at God.  It’s like the cancer patients who whine “why me?”   My answer is simple:  Why not you?  Why someone else and not you?  Get over yourself.   An aside — I was happy to learn that the breast cancer support group formerly known as Y-Me has changed its name to Network of Strength.  Good decision.

When I was first diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and told that I would probably die within two years (NB — this was 11 years and 7 months ago) I felt very strongly that it didn’t matter if I lived or died.  What mattered was how I lived.  I wanted to leave my children a legacy that they could be proud of, not one of a bitter woman who wished that things were different.  I wanted to do my small part to change the world before I left it.

The sentence in question in Rabbi Goldstein’s book caught my eye for another reason too.  He writes:  “I have come to the personal conclusion over the years that no theology or spiritual system that discusses God, without equal reference to the development and improvement of the individual spirit, is one that warrants our time, energy or serious attention.”  In other words, religion that focuses on God and neglects humans is a waste of time.

His comment is especially pertinent during these Yamin Norim, Days of Awe.  As much as Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur talk about God, they are really about us. 

As Ernst Simon put it, every Jewish prayer challenges us to examine ourselves, and ask —

Have we been silent when we should have spoken out?

Have we been selfish when we should have been responsive to the needs of others?

Have we been thoughtless when we should have been sensitive?

Have we pursued that which is hollow when we should have reached for that which can hallow our life? 

Our challenge, this Rosh Hashannah and always, is to ask “how can I live my life to its fullest potential?”  That, I think, is the path to finding God.

Tomorrow night is the beginning of Rosh Hashannah.  May your year be filled with joy and wonder, health and happiness, and may we all remember to keep passing the open windows.

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