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To Begin Again - September 2016

On the back of our Yizkor books is a poem titled, To Begin Again.
"Rosh Hashanah comes with a great gift - the opportunity to begin again.
The old year is gone. The ledger is closed.
Our Book of Life is now open to a new page.
Slowly the invisible pen begins to record our life and it is given to us to direct the pen.
We are invited to try and we are challenged to succeed.        
On Rosh Hashanah we receive the gift of beginning again.  How will we use the gift?"             

I love that poem because it gets to the core of the issue. If we are lucky enough to be alive on Rosh Hashanah, then that means we have been given the gift of beginning again. Will we take that gift for granted or will we use that gift wisely?             

Wouldn't we all love to have a second chance at saying something or doing something that we should not have said or done this past year? To begin again is to learn from our mistakes and to then grow as a result of what we have learned.             

What is true for us as individuals is also true for us as a country. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, we find ourselves living at a time of great division and anger and frustration. People look at the same reality and see different things - and I am not only talking about Hillary and Donald. I am not only talking about the political divide between Republicans and Democrats.             
People disagree about the state of race relations in this country. People disagree about whether we have a right to bear arms. People disagree about immigration and what to do about illegal immigrants. People disagree about the wisdom of giving Iran hundreds of millions of dollars. People disagree about the role of government in their lives.             

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, I am not sure how to achieve consensus. Everyone looks at the same reality and processes that reality in a different way. One of the themes we will talk about during the holidays is our willingness to accept the reality that we will not always agree. But is it possible to disagree in an agreeable enough fashion so that we, instead of detesting each other, can actually remain connected to each other?             

This brings me back to the power of beginning again. Perhaps it is time for us as individuals and as a country to begin again and by so doing give each other the opportunity to lower the temperature, take a breath and begin again.             

As we prepare to meet each other for the holidays, I want to plant the idea of the power of beginning again. Beginning again is a gift and opportunity that must not be taken lightly.             
So this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as you sit in the sanctuary, ask yourself the question - how can I begin again? And while you are considering that question and what it means to you in your own personal life, say a prayer for our country to find a way to begin again, so that we may better listen to and hear each other's pain.             

After this election, when the dust settles, let us hope that the people of this country can find the way back to each other. May we be blessed with leaders who lead with courage, strength, humility and integrity - so that we may live together in peace and with true freedom. This is the full meaning of the words - to begin again.             

Shanah Tovah - Happy and healthy New Year to you and yours. I look forward to seeing you all during the holidays!             

Shalom,           Rabbi Ira Rothstein