L’shanah Tovah!

Today is the 936th day of March 2020.

Today is the 27th day of Elul 5782.

I can’t help but notice the discrepancy between the COVID calendar and the Jewish calendar. The former displays a monotonous repetition, each day like the previous one with no productive forward motion. We are stuck in time. Or, perhaps, time itself is stuck, like a broken watch.

According to the Jewish calendar, we are nearly ready to usher in the new Jewish year of 5783, to acknowledge the mistakes we made in the previous year, to return to our better selves. We are poised to make changes, to repair or heal ourselves and what is broken in the world.

And yet, beginning at sunset on Sunday, we will experience the third Rosh Hashanah in masks or in a Zoom room. I wonder if we’ll look around our synagogues, dining room tables, breakout rooms and chat threads, and notice anything different.

It’s customary to wish one another l’shanah tovah, a good year. We don’t say happy new year, mostly because we know the year ahead will be like the previous year, a time of joy and sorrow, health and sickness, wholeness and brokenness. A blessing of a good year is aspirational: may the year be more good than bad.

Some people add the word “sweet” to this greeting, l’shanah tovah u’metukah, and sweeten their holiday dishes with honey. Early in our marriage, my spouse introduced our family’s custom of not eating pickles on Rosh Hashanah, to avoid starting the year on a sour note.

My blessing for all of us is that things will be different—better!—in the coming year.

Please, let 5783 be, on balance, a good, sweet year.

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Newsletter (Fall 2022/Elul 5782)