This is the fourth and final posting of original prayers which I shared with the Congregation on the first night of Rosh Hashana. This prayer, from 2002, followed a d’var Torah in which I commented on a line from the Shabbat morning service: Yismach Moshe B’Matnat Helko.
The words are translated: “Moses rejoiced with the gift of his heritage”. But, the word yismach is actually a future tense verb so we would more accurately read this as: “Moses will rejoice”.
The paragraph which follows this line is: “Veshamru B’nai Yisrael et HaShabbat”, a verse from the Torah which is usually translated: “The people of Israel should keep the Sabbath”. But, I suggested we translate it as: “The people of Israel will keep the Sabbath”. Perhaps this is a promise from God to Moses that in fact the people would observe the commandments that he had delivered to the people and that this made Moses happy in that he rejoiced in the fact that his sacred work would be rewarded.
That led me to think of what it is that we could do that would make different figures from Jewish history rejoice. Here is the prayer that I wrote:
As we have made Moses rejoice by our gathering tonight, may we continue to make our ancestors rejoice through our actions in the coming year.
May Aaron, who taught us to seek peace and pursue it, rejoices as we seek and pursue peace in our homes, in our community, in our nation and in our world.
May Miriam, who taught us to sing a joyous song to God, rejoice as we find new ways to express our joy at being alive and our thanks to our creator.
May Joshua, who taught us to be strong and courageous, rejoice as we find renewed strength and courage to face the difficulties of life in the year ahead.
May Esther, who taught us to always be prepared to step out from behind whatever masks we may wear and remember our responsibility to our people, rejoice as we and our children proudly identify with our Jewish community and our Jewish people. (2021 note: this does not apply to COVID masks, please continue to wear them.)
May Rabbi Akiva, who taught us that we are never too old to begin to learn, rejoice as more and more of us take on the commitments of serious Jewish learning at whatever stage in life we are.
May Hillel, who taught us to be gentle and flexible in our efforts to do God’s will, rejoice as we realize that strength and loyalty to our people is not an excuse for belligerence and arrogance.
May Maimonides, who taught us that the middle way is the proper way, rejoice as we find a way to avoid extremes and seek moderation in our daily lives.
May the Ba’al Shem Tov, who taught us to find mystery and ecstasy in our daily life, rejoice as we rise above the every day to find beauty and holiness in our world.
And, may all of those who lived and died so that we might be here tonight, rejoice in the commitments we have made to return again and again throughout this year.
May God bless us all of us together with a year of life, peace, health and rejoicing.
Best wishes to all for a Shana Tova u’mituka: A sweet, healthy, year.