Erev Rosh Hashanah • Rosh Hashanah Eve
September 7, 2010 • 1 Tishrei 5777
Rabbi Bridget Wynne
I want to share a brief story with you.
It was a foggy day. A woman was taking a walk in the park. She saw ahead what looked like a boy flying a kite, but she couldn’t tell for sure. As she got closer, she saw a string in his hand, but when she looked up she couldn’t see the kite.
When she was near enough, she stopped to chat, and asked, “Are you really flying a kite in this weather? What’s the point if you can’t see it?” “I can’t see the kite, but I can feel the string tugging,” the boy answered.
Many of us, much of the time, are also flying kites in the fog. The big questions about our lives, our relationships, the meaning of our time here on earth, are obscured by the fog of everyday life.
You’re here tonight. It’s a Wednesday evening, the middle of the week. There are other places you could be, but we are here, together.
Something drew you here. Perhaps a tugging, like the boy felt, flying the kite. There are different reasons for each of us.
What brought you this evening? I invite you to take a moment, and ask yourself. If the answer is, “I felt like I should,” or, “My wife, or husband, or parent, asked me to,” look a bit deeper. Maybe there’s a desire, a question, a yearning of your own. What drew you here?
Perhaps it was a desire to connect with Jewish community and tradition. If so, not surprisingly, I have a couple thoughts. I am not trying to make you “be Jewish” in any particular way, but I do believe that Judaism has a lot to offer. Being part of an ancient heritage, and able to draw on it, can enrich us.
Here are my thoughts.
First, I encourage you to think beyond the usual. There are many aspects of what it can mean to be Jewish – we may think of holidays, Hebrew, bar and bat mitzvahs, keeping kosher – or not – and these rituals do play important roles.
But underneath all of them is this: Judaism is a way to address life’s deepest questions, the kind that sometimes keep us awake at 4 in the morning. Other religions have their way. Judaism is not the only way, or the best way, but it is the way these New Year holidays offer us. Make use of these structures, this time, and this company, in ways that work for you! If you’re not sure how – read, ask me, ask others – there are many ways to learn.
Here is my second thought: There is a Jewish renaissance happening here in the Bay Area right now. Is there something you would like to do? To explore? Jewish ways to learn about ethics, or family, or living a more meaningful life?
Perhaps you’re seeking community, or ways to work for social justice from a Jewish point of view. Maybe you’re curious about Jewish culture, or spirituality. If Jewish longings are part of what brought you here tonight, what might be ways to respond?
Maybe it’s not a Jewish longing, but a response to something happening in your life, around you, or inside you, or both, that brought you here this evening. You’re in the right place – we’re here to reflect on universal, human questions.
This is a celebration, a time to welcome this new year, but it’s also, along with the next holiday 10 days from now, Yom Kippur, a time to reflect on our lives. Beneath these days is the Jewish belief that each of our lives is important. Jewish tradition teaches us that to save one life is like saving the world – and it also teaches that we have the power to change. Many parts of our lives are not under our control, but many parts are.
Reflecting, making changes, forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, mending relationships. That’s what these days are for. We are more likely to be able to look at our lives, and to have the vision and the courage to adjust our course, if we come together with others who are doing so as well. If that’s part of what brought you here this evening, think about how you might respond. Is it a longing? A fear? A question? A person with whom you need to make peace? What do you need to do? Are there steps you might take to learn, to explore something new, to find resources or guidance?
I want to close by inviting you to picture that string, and this time, to imagine it tugging at your heart. People talk about heartstrings. We didn’t know that they were kite strings, too! If you grab hold of it, and follow it at your own pace, there is a good chance that you will find your way.