Rosh Hashanana 5779 Day 1 – Sorry But All of Our Representatives are Currently Busy

By: Larry Tobin

So, it’s that time of the year again. It’s time to draw closer to G-d. It’s time to pray that the upcoming year is a good year. But how do we attain this lofty goal? Our High Holiday prayers conveniently provide the magic formula. Just do these three things and watch any bad decree miraculously disappear: Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedakah. Easy, right? Well, maybe not so easy as it appears. And one part of this three-prong approach is particularly hard.

Teshuva relates to repentance. What have I done in the past year that I should not have done and that I should avoid repeating? How can I improve myself? The Al Chet prayer reminds us that we are not praying merely for ourselves.  Shechetanu, which means that we sinned, reflects that we are collectively praying for forgiveness for any sins that any of us committed. A strength in numbers approach. You may have copied me and reviewed the sins list at some time to determine which arguably apply to yourself. Hopefully, most do not apply. We trust that by combining prayers we will be on the path to redemption for all of us.

Tzedakah commonly refers to charity. Pretty easy to get by this one, right? Just open up your wallet and voila! The root word of Tzedakah, however, is Tzedek. This can translate into righteousness. Thus, in addition to giving charity, it’s probably a good idea to be your normal righteous self on a regular basis. Do good deeds. Volunteer time to worthy organizations and/or noble causes. Be nice to others. You are now a bona fide Tzadik or Tzadeket and have successfully overcome the second hurdle. In addition to this, please do not overlook the dictates of Parshat Shoftim which we read a few weeks ago. The Parsha commands “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof”. This means that we must chase after Justice. Tzedek, which means justice, is actually the root word for Tzedakah and Tzadik. We may be successful in our attempt to get a good judgment from G-d by being righteous and giving charity. But if we also want to be recognized as a good Jew and a good person, we must seek justice and treat people justly.

Tefilla, prayer. This one’s kind of tricky. The Bible and other Jewish texts are filled with outstanding examples of the power of prayer. Abraham is credited with establishing Shacharit, i.e., praying in the morning. Isaac gets credit for Mincha, i.e., afternoon prayers. Jacob added Maariv, evening prayers. Hence, we have a longstanding history of prayer among Jews. On a more personal level, I remember my first encounter with intense prayer. I was a young lad. My beloved Zadie had been hospitalized. While listening on my transistor radio to the Cubs, I formulated a youthful plan to communicate with G-d. The Cubs were playing the Mets. It was late in the game and the Cubs were up by one run. Dear G-d, I said, You know how much I love the Cubs. Save my grandfather and I’ll make You a deal. The Cubs can lose. Sure enough. Cleon Jones of the Mets hit a two- run homer in the ninth inning just over the outstretched glove of Cub centerfielder, Sweet Lou Johnson, and the Cubs lost by one run. My grandfather survived and lived for several more years. Ah, the power of prayer. By the way, I never again made a deal against the Cubs. Also, I do not advocate making deals with G-d. This was simply a case of beginner’s luck.

Many of you know my daughter Sarah. But did you know that she was born with a severe immune deficiency? Life expectancy, we were advised, was 3 or 4. My wife Terry and I were grief stricken as we watched our baby continually develop colds, rashes and illnesses as a result of her IGA deficiency. Another Jewish couple who lived nearby faced the same dilemma with their baby. Did I pray? You better believe it. I prayed with all my heart and with all my might and with all my soul. At age 2, we started noticing some changes in Sarah’s readings. By then, Sarah was a regular customer of Children’s Hospital. One day we received great news from Children’s. Sarah had somehow undergone a spontaneous recovery and the critical period had passed. She would develop a functioning immune system and would survive. The other sick child I earlier referred to did not survive.

Have you ever experienced this scenario? You place a telephone call only to be greeted by the following message: Sorry but all of our representatives are currently busy . . . After waiting an eternity, you slam down the phone, mumble a few choice words, and storm off in utter frustration. Don’t you just hate it? Then why do we play this cruel game with G-d? We turn to G-d for help when we need or want something. We race to Him especially when we are in trouble. Please G-d. Drop whatever You’re doing and listen to me instead. Have you every missed praying or attending a Kehilla service because you were “too busy”? Have you ever put G-d on hold? Praying in a group setting amplifies our prayers. G-d may not always say “yes”. But rest assured that He will listen and never put you on hold. So, what can we do to give ourselves a better chance of having a good year?  Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedakah. Give G-d a break. Quit the excuses. Better yet, give yourself a break. In addition to Teshuva and Tzedakah, PRAY! Attend prayer services on a regular basis. Maybe, even on time. The spiritual, healing and cleansing power of Tefilla may do you and your loved ones a world of good.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy, blessed and meaningful New Year. May we all be written into the Book of Life this Rosh Hashanah for the following year, sealed on Yom Kippur and confirmed on Succoth.

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