When I was a kid, today was the day I both dreaded and looked forward to each year. Traditionally, today was the first day of a new school year, unlike today, when students seem to return to school in the middle of summer. The day after Labor Day was the official end of summer for most families. Most students would arrive at school wearing a new first day of school outfit, their backpack full of school supplies, including a new Trapper Keeper (yes… I am a child of the 80’s), a fresh set of scented markers, and an outlook that the year held enormous potential.
I was thinking about this recently as my youngest began her sophomore year of high school, and my oldest started her 3rd year of college. What opportunities and experiences awaited them in the year ahead? Would it be a good year for them with nominal challenges, or would it be one they may struggle through and yet learn from along the way?
The same could be said for each of us as the days tick down in 5783 as we lead up to the start of 5784 when Erev Rosh Hashanah begins next Friday. (To help the community prepare for this year’s High Holy Days, our Jewish Federation will email our annual High Holy Days Resource Guide this Thursday at 9:00 a.m. Please feel free to share it with anyone you think would benefit.)
Before we can think about the questions I laid out above, it is essential to remember that we still have several more days in 5783 to do the best we can and live up to our potential of being the best we can be. As we think about the future, we sometimes forget that we can impact that future by the decisions we make today.
This notion is part of our tradition and is found in Pirkei Avot, a section of the Talmud that captures teachings that were considered important but not included in other sections. In Chapter 4, verse 2, Shimon Ben Azzai, not a rabbi but held in very high esteem for his learning, would say, “Mitzvah goreret mitzvah, averah goreret averah.” A loose translation is that one good deed leads to another, while one bad deed leads to another. So, in other words, if we work to do good, that will lead us to doing what is right and just, while if we don’t focus on making the world a better place, that will continue to lead us away from caring about pursuing justice and doing what is right.
During these next few days, I encourage all of us to try and do more good, not because it will help us in the coming year, but because it is the right thing to do. May these last several days of 5783 be your best ones yet. And let’s all of us walk into 5784, looking forward to the year ahead with all of its potential and possibilities.