From the desk of Rabbi Howald




As I write this article, the High Holy Days for the year 5783 are about to begin. I love it when Rosh Hashana coincides with the start of fall and the special nature of light as the sun retreats from the summer solstice.  By coincidence, the Days of Awe this year start just as we stand poised between longest and the shortest days of the year.  This moment of equipoise perfectly describes our own situation as we begin 10 days of prayer and reflection on our place in the Book of Life.

According to midrash, only a few human beings are entirely righteous. These are immediately written into the Book of Life.  Only a few human beings are entirely evil.  They have no place in the Book of Life. Most of us lie somewhere in between, with deeds on both sides of the scale. Our task during the High Holy Days is to metaphorically tip the balance to the positive side through acts of teshuvah, genuine repentance and prayer.  In this sense, the balance in the natural world between day and night mirrors our equipoise between two different fates.

In nature, the world proceeds according to its ordinary course. From this point until the winter solstice, night will dominate over day. We, however, are alone among God’s creatures on this earth in our ability to determine our own destiny. The High Holy Days remind us that we can tilt the balance between one future and another through the choices we make. God wants us to choose both life and light, even as the days get progressively shorter.

As we begin the High Holy Days of 5783 together, our family wishes you all a sweet New Year and a meaningful period of reflection and renewal during the Days of Awe.  May our acts of repentance engender genuine reconciliation and may we, both together and individually, all be written in the Book of Life.   Shana Tova um’tukah.  A good and sweet New Year!

Rabbi Michael Howald