Rosh Hashana message

Jewish values and virtues to guide us


As we prepared to greet the summer, I traveled to Israel to meet with representatives of Birthright Israel for the purpose of discussing programs to strengthen Jewish identities within our high school and college youth. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the great rabbinic luminaries of our day.

At the Jewish state’s 69th anniversary celebration of Independence Day, I had the opportunity to ask him, what Jewish values should I discuss with my community as we prepare to celebrate the High Holy Days. Without hesitation, he replied: loyalty, perseverance, hope and tzedakah.

Now you don’t normally receive a simple answer to a complex question from a great and deep thinker. So, his answer got me thinking what these values mean to us as individuals, family members, and members of World Jewry committed to the state of Israel.

So, to begin answering this question, at this time of year when we are commanded to perform the mitzvah of chesbon a nefesh, soul searching, taking stock of our lives and performing the difficult task of teshuva, repentance, let us examine how we incorporate these Jewish values into our lives.

Now the importance of loyalty, when it comes to our family members, should be of utmost concern to us. Remember the iconic song by the Beatles, “When I am 64,” which puts forth a profound question asked by many family members today, not only at age 64, but 84 and 94 when it comes to their children and grandchildren.

The truth be told, that as much as grandparents need their grandchildren, grandchildren need their grandparents. While ours is a mobile society, it need not be a “distancing society” when it comes to our family members. We have a religious obligation to stay in contact with them, support them and express our love for them.

The value of loyalty is much needed in the workplace on both sides of the equation. This is one way that America can increase productivity and gain greater prominence on the world stage with the words, “Made in America,” once again a sign of distinction. And we should all remember, that just as the 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job has gone the way of the Pontiac and Oldsmobile; so, has the outdated belief that only the young can be productive, creative and dynamic.

Furthermore, this past month with the hateful, painful and despicable display of anti-Semitism and racism in Charlottesville, Virginia, images of the Shoah and the horrors and unspeakable acts of Nazi Germany that murdered six million Jews, most certainly remind us of our need to show our loyalty to the Jewish Democratic state of Israel. Seven decades ago, World Jewry had no place of refuge; no nation would take them in.

Today things are different. Today we have a Jewish state, our spiritual home and a refuge for all our people facing persecution. Today, with the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe since the end of the Holocaust, it is accurate to say, that at its founding, Israel needed Diaspora Jewry, today, Diaspora Jewry needs Israel.

Yes, Israel needs our support, not only because it faces the specter of a nuclear Iran and terrorism and calls for its destruction from Hezbollah and attacks by Hamas, but just as challenging to Israel’s existence is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement that threatens Israel’s social wellbeing and survival. It is nothing less than a morally bankrupt movement of economic terrorism against the Jewish state.

This Rosh Hashana, we celebrate the year 5778. Through perseverance and never losing hope in the future, together we will insure that Judaism not only survives, but also continues to thrive for generations to come.

From my family to yours, we send you our prayers that God inscribe you and seal you and your loved ones in the Book of Goodness and Life for a New Year of Peace.

Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum

Rosenbaum is the spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Lawrence.