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Facing the Future Together

September 1, 2023


Rabbi Nathan Martin

How might we use some of our time on this holy day of Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah, and during the upcoming 10 days of repentance to face this moment of significant climate crisis? What texts and practices might speak to us?

First, the mishnah describes Rosh Hashanah as a moment when “all creatures pass before the Divine like sheep [benei maron].” What if the metaphor of creatures passing before the divine was more like an interconnected web of life facing the world’s fragility together? If we apply this image to the mishnah, then we are not judged individually but rather communally ‐ each of us an important part of the greater whole where, like a web, we are only as strong as our weakest link. And our community at Beth Israel can also work to strengthen our interconnections to each other and hold loss and uncertainty.

Second, the unetane tokef prayer notably concludes with the words, “u‐teshuva, u‐tefillah, u‐tzedaka ma’avirin et roa’ hagzera,” realignment to our core values, continued spiritual practice, and engaging in the work of justice can temper the harshness of the decree. Even though Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment, our ancestors could not help but include messages that we have agency to affect change in the world. We have already shown that we have the capacity to do so here at Beth Israel with the installation of our solar array, our raised bed gardens, and more, showing that change can happen here in the synagogue, and beyond, if we put our minds to it.

Finally, the coincidence of Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat is a moment of double holiness. The practice of Shabbat, a practice of rest, connection, and renewal, truly does help us deepen and intertwine our roots together as a community. The careful cultivation of “inaction” on our weekly holy day — a practice some might term the earliest ongoing environmental practice of non‐consumption — is what allows us to fortify ourselves for the challenges ahead. I am so grateful that we will be creating opportunities this year for us to come together more frequently on Shabbat in person, to celebrate, learn, eat together.

So I want to bless us as we start this new year with the blessing as we face so many fundamental challenges in our world, of sharing our vulnerability together with each other, maintaining hope in the face of challenge, and further re‐committing to live out our important core value as a community of actively working to repair the world, one action at a time.

Wishes to all for a Shanah Tovah, a sweet and healthy new year.

Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784