This Rosh Hashanah holiday, starting at sundown on Monday night and lasting to an hour after dark on Wednesday evening, is so poignant and strong this year that I cannot let it pass without sharing my thoughts with you.
Last week, I gave two interviews and at both I was asked, as the founder and CEO of GrantWatch, to describe the company culture of GrantWatch. My answer was and remains that we are engaged in the process of “Tikun Olam,” the betterment of the world. We strive to make a difference with the accessibility of grant funding for worthwhile programs for the greater good of humanity. That is our culture at GrantWatch.
I am happy to say that our testimonial page has gone up before Rosh Hashanah with videos and quotes from the organizations describing the people who we have helped. I plan to point to it in my mind during my prayers, as I ask for a year of good health, happiness, joy and prosperity for my family.
A Look at Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish calendar year. The counting of years starts from mankind, to now. The New Year 5782, begins on Monday evening.
I want to tell you about Rosh Hashanah through the words of Rabbi Hutner. (Sept. 6 1970, Rabbi Hutner and his family were returning home to New York after visiting Israel. They were on TWA Flight 741 when a terrorist organization hijacked their flight. During the following three weeks, the world watched in horror as slow and agonizing negotiations were conducted, and small groups of hostages were released. Finally on Sept. 28, 1970, Rabbi Hutner and his group were freed and were able to return to New York via Europe, arriving home just in time for the first night of Rosh Hashanah.)
“Rosh Hashanah is a day on which tears are appropriate, tears of contrition, tears of petition. It is, after all, a day of judgment, in which our very lives hang in the balance. ” As I listen to the clarion call of the shofar blowing, I feel the sound reverberate through me, making me shake in awe of the auspiciousness of the day.
This aspect of Rosh Hashanah, as a day of fear and trembling, is most vividly described in the prayer, ‘Unesane Tokef.”
….and angels scurry, and fear and trembling grips them.
who will live and who will die,
who in his time, and who before his time,
who will become rich and who will become poor
who will be brought down, and who will be raised high.
“Yet Rosh Hashanah wears another aspect. It is a festival on which we wear holiday clothes and eat a festive meal; a day when we dip the apple in honey and wish each other a sweet new year,” Rabbi Hutner said. “And this aspect of Rosh Hashanah is also described, as such…ordinarily a person being judged in court would wear somber clothing, and a somber expression, fearful of what the verdict will be. But not so on Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people wear holiday clothing and rejoice, for they are certain that God will perform a miracle for them.”
Coming to Terms with the Paradox
So in Rabbi Hutner’s words, we find Rosh Hashanah described in paradoxical terms. On the one hand, it is a day of tears, of fearful apprehension; and on the other hand, it is a day of rejoicing, a holiday. How can we come to grips with this paradox? I believe the explanation is that we come back to the moment of creation on Rosh Hashanah. And on each Rosh Hashanah, God recreates the world. He considers each of his creatures, determining whether or not they should continue to exist and on what terms. And that is the judgment, of Rosh Hashanah.
On Rosh Hashanah, we are called upon to justify or to stake a claim to our very existence. Now we can say to God that he should continue to sustain us because we are an integral part of His divine plan: We can bring up our role in the unfolding process of redemption that is the history of the world, and whose endpoint is the time that we describe in our Rosh Hashanah prayers.
However, this is not a claim that we can make as individuals. No one person can say that he is indispensable to God’s plan. But it is a claim that the people can make as a whole — that we are God’s instrument in history. This confidence will allow God to continue to sustain, because in some mysterious way we are necessary.
The Importance of Building a Community
And here also lies the answer to the paradox of Rosh Hashanah. Because on Rosh Hashanah we face judgment both as individuals and as a people. And as individuals, we cannot know what the verdict will be. No one can know what the year will bring, nor can we say that we are entitled to a favorable verdict. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah should indeed be a day of fear and trembling.
But as a people we have faith that we are part of God’s plan and that He will never entirely abandon us. And from that point of view, it is a Holiday, a day of rejoicing. Now there is an important corollary to this. Because if we want favorable judgement in the heavens we need to make ourselves indispensable to the community.
That is the culture of GrantWatch. Make yourselves indispensable to the nonprofits, small businesses and individuals seeking funding and be there for the community looking for grants to support programs that make a difference in the world for the greater good. GrantWatch also offers a category of grants specifically for faith-based organizations and nonprofits on its site.
“By making ourselves indispensable to the community, we weave ourselves into the fabric of the people of whom the community is the basic unit. …. To that extent, our judgement on Rosh Hashanah will be as part of the entire people. We will be able to share in the confidence of the people who rejoice on Rosh Hashanah, and we will merit a happy and healthy New Year.”
Our Wish for You
GrantWatch wishes you who are engaged in community service and your family a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.