Here I sit on the cusp of the New Year of 5778, and one might think that as a Rabbi, I am over sermonized, in which case I cannot think of another word to say, or, it just keeps flowing. Our machzor, the High Holy Day prayer book, provides us with a formula to impact any decisions God might make on our individual fate:
Ut’shuva Ut’fila Utz’daka Ma-avirin et Ro-ah Hag’zera.
However, T’shuva, prayer and Tz’daka can lessen the severity of the decree.
You will note several unique elements in my translation: 1) I purposefully chose not to translate the words T’shuva and Tz’daka, and 2) I chose to use the verb “lessen”, whereas some translations utilize “avert”. I do not think we can “avert” God’s decree, but sincere actions on our part can influence the degree of the decision. What actions might you ask? Authentic prayer that comes from the heart can lessen the impact. T’shuva, which I prefer to translate as “turning” as opposed to “repentance”, for we need to turn back towards the right path, can lessen the impact. Tz’daka, which some translate as “charity”, can lessen the impact.
The opportunity to affect those in need, be it Houston and the surrounding cities, the communities of Florida, and the US Virgin Islands, is great. I encourage you to help in whatever way you can if you have not yet done so. We can also affect our local community for participating in the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry High Holiday Food Drive. I share with you their desired item list: canned tuna; peanut butter; 100% fruit juice; low sugar cold cereal; low sodium soup; pasta; rice; vegetable oil; baby diapers; laundry detergent; paper towels; toothpaste. They also ask that you not bring glass jars or bottles. You can bring these items to them at 828 Hazelwood Avenue, or go to their website to donate: www.sqfoodpantry.org. Imagine the powerful statement that you make to those in need that when you are fasting on the holiest day of our year, you have taken some of the food you would be eating during that time and donated it to those who have not chosen to fast, but alas do so due to their circumstances.
May your acts of T’shuva Ut’fila Utz’daka cause God to look upon youfavorably and grant you a year of health and joy. L’shana Tova Tikatevu V’techatemu. May you be written and sealed for a good year.