Rosh Hashana is not just the beginning of the year, it is also, quite literally, the Rosh -- the head of the year. What this means is that we have a unique opportunity to create a vision of what we want to come that year and to make that vision the “head” – the leader of our year. In fact, the reason that we eat symbolic foods at our Rosh Hashana meal is not because they have magical powers (husband’s joke – if we eat lettuce, raisins and celery - Hashem will lettuce have a rais in salary). We eat these foods because they help to form our vision and to keep our picture focused on sweet stuff. This year we had plenty of visual aids to create a vision of what we want to follow. Rosh Hashana in Efrat was nothing less than picturesque and blissful. Of course it helped that we were invited out for all 4 meals and for the first time in 8 years, I cooked absolutely nothing! As the chag began I was watching my children play in the park next to the shul. The sun was setting behind the Judean hills. All around us were children playing happily in an area built of Jerusalem stone and Jewish dreams. The weather was cool and breezy. It was one of those Aliyah moments in which I felt that I really did have an “elevation.” I really did fulfill a dream that began long ago – way before me, my parents, and their parents. There is a saying by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi that says “Everywhere I go I am going to Eretz Yisrael.” When you make this idea the head of your year, your Aliyah begins in that moment. Long ago, I had a dream that I would live in Israel one day. Looking back in my life I see that I wherever I went, I was headed that way. I had to move to Perth, Australia and to Miami in order to move to Israel. From living in Perth I learned that it is possible to live far from family, and yet still be close. From the South Africans in Perth I learned that leaving certain luxuries behind does not have to mean a decrease in the standard of living. It can also lead us to a higher standard. As one oleh said “I have never had so little and yet felt so rich.” From the South Americans in Miami I learned that it is possible to be part of another country without losing one’s identity. Being an immigrant does not have to mean a life of trying to fit in or trying to be something you are not. I’m proud to be and Israeli but also proud to have been born in the USA with all of the good things that it has to offer. From living in Perth and in Miami I learned to appreciate 4 seasons that coincide with the Jewish yearly cycle. For the first time in a long time, Sukkot will actually feel like the time of year it is supposed to represent. No fan or air conditioner needed! Yet from Miami, I learned that it’s ok to be hot and sweaty, or as one of the locals put it “moist.” At least here we get a break from that. From living in Perth, I learned to appreciate a multitude of kosher food and restaurants. There was on kosher restaurant in Perth open two hours a week. After we left he closed and apparently told someone that he closed because we left! From living in Miami I learned to love Israelis and to see the softness beneath the hard veneer. In short, after being around the world and back, I learned that there is no place like home. Though many of us take the roundabout route, for Jews, all roads lead home.
Happy New Year 5770!
If I had Hebrew font, I could show you that the year is written Taf Shin Ayin. That could be an acronym for Teheh Shnat Aliyah. This should be a year of Aliyah. Wishing you a year of elevation physically and spiritually!