Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on Rosh Hashanah.

The Way We Were

2023-09-16 Rosh Hashanah

Memories are the cornerstones of our lives. They are what shape us and guide us, and they remind us of the people we love and the community we belong to. Memories can be beautiful, as the classic Barbra Streisand/Marvin Hamlisch song “The Way We Were” reminds us. They can light up the corners of our minds like misty watercolor paintings.

But memories can also be painful. What is too painful to remember, we often choose to forget. And yet, even when we try to forget, the memories we shared with others will always remain.

The High Holy Days offer us a chance to confront our past and make amends with those we have wronged. This process of wholehearted repentance, or teshuvah, allows us to reflect on the relationships we have with others and to seek forgiveness where necessary. It is a time to reflect on our relationship with our community and with the larger Jewish people – in an attempt to reach a sense of wholeness.

“HaYom Harat Olam” (“Today the World is Born Anew”) – is a prayer we recite during the Rosh Hashanah Musaf service following the blowing of the shofar, and is meant to evoke a sense of renewal and rejuvenation as we enter the new year. The prayer acknowledges the importance of memory and reflection, as we look back on the past year and seek to improve ourselves in the year ahead.

In the prayer, we proclaim that “today the world is born anew,” and we ask God to help us shed our past mistakes and shortcomings. We ask for His guidance and wisdom, as we strive to live our lives in accordance with His will. The prayer also includes requests for blessings for the coming year, including health, happiness, and prosperity.

As we reflect on our past, let us also consider the future. The High Holy Days are a time to remember the way we were, but they are also an opportunity to consider the way we want to be in the future. The process of introspection and reflection that occurs during this time can be challenging, but it is also deeply rewarding. By reflecting on our past, we can learn from our mistakes and strive to be better in the future.

Let us reflect on the power of memory and the importance of the relationships we have with the people we love and the community we belong to. And let us strive to be the best versions of ourselves in the year ahead.