Rabbi Tanya's New Year Message

Rosh ha-Shanah 5777

My dear members, I am pleased to share with you some good news. The year 5776 is about to be completed! What a year it was.

The worst refugee crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War and the Summer Olympics in Rio, where our athletes made us proud with 67 medals – the new record since 1908 Olympics! The announcement of the discovery of the gravitational waves and the Referendum with our vote in favour of leaving the EU – what an emotional few months we had as a country!

We saw the rise of Donald Trump and the far right parties across the Europe this year. We also saw numerous terrorist attacks across Europe, which scared many of us with their randomness and cruelty. This year made us realise more than ever that the human tendency towards self-destruction can make the whole world, as Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav puts it, “a very narrow bridge”.

For us as a congregation, 5776 was the year of the triumphant end of our 50th anniversary celebrations at the Chanukah party and the beginning of our 51st year as a vibrant, welcoming and growing community, the strong-hold of Liberal Jewish values in East Midlands. We witnessed big and small simchas in our congregation throughout the year, we had losses and disappointments too. Some of us had quite a few challenges to overcome this year and most of us had times for a few celebrations.

We reflect on the year, which is about to finish and look with a mixture of hope and anxiety towards the New Year, 5777 – will it be a good year for us? 

Three number “7” out of 4 numbers in the next year might make us feel positive about the coming year already! Number “7” through it’s accordance with time intervals between phases of the moon became one of the very special and - believed by some - one of the greatest power numbers in Judaism, representing “Creation, good fortune, and blessing”.  

Tanach is full of number 7 in all possible combinations of Jewish life and festival cycle. The seven days of Creation and an elevated status of the seventh day – Sabbath only start the list. Shalosh Regalim festivals last 7 days, we count 7 weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, the mourning period is 7 days long for a close relative, priestly ordination lasts 7 days in the Torah and there are 7 blessings in the wedding ceremony – to name just a very few!

A Hebrew word for luck, gad, equals seven in gematria. Another Hebrew word for luck, mazal, equals seventy-seven. It looks like the New Year can bring us all a lot of luck!

However, what we call 'good luck' is usually a combination of some blessings, good fortune and in particular the hard work of both our hands and our souls. We need to help those numbers to bring us luck and blessing by making a real effort next year to live a fulfilling, content and a meaningful life. Making change or changes to our lives is in our hands as much as in God’s.

So, I do not want just to conclude by wishing you all 'a good year'. I would also say to you: Make this a good year!

Shanah Tovah u-Metukah – have a good and a healthy New Year!

Rabbi Tanya