High Holy Days

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

The purpose of these holidays, is to get man to think: about his life, his purposes, his ideals, his hopes, his dreams. It is not easy. It is easier not to think. thinking is done for us. We are told through ads - what to buy, what to wear, what to do, what to eat; and through propaganda, what to think. Thinking is the hardest work of all. Throughout the prayer service in the Synagogue, on these Holy days, runs the re-occurring theme of life. "Remember us unto life, Oh, King, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, so that we may live worthily for thy sake, Oh, G-d of Life." The human heart is capable of reflecting on life, its meaning and purpose, because man, of all G-d's creations, is endowed with G-d's unique gift - the power to think.

Man's ability to think is so very unique and decisive, that it can determine his wholelife. For thought is the cradle wherein human life is nurtured, the seed from which springs every act, every deed. Little wonder, then, that the world has framed an aphorism expressing this universal truth. "As a man thinks - so is he." If, therefore, what we think is central to life, it is important that we consider some religious implications of this truth. It was not until the present time that this strong faith in Torah was challenged by the Jews themselves. Various Jews, individuals and even well organized groups, cry that the Torah is outmoded and out of fashion, that it is not livable today.

Oh, they agree that it is a wonderful idea, this Torah. They love it. But if only they could bring it up to date, if they could take out its "objectionable" passages, if they could delete Shabbos from it, if they could eliminate Kashrus from it, if they could amend the laws of prayer, if they could alter the character of the Holy synagogue, if they could omit some of the Mitzvos that are rather difficult to perform, and which take effort and concentration, if they could dilute Jewish life into a watered down copy of American life, if they could take three thousand years of holy tradition and cast it aside for the sake of being up to date, if they could make G-d's eternal law more attractive to themselves and more convenient, then they would be willing to accept it.

The tragedy of our day is that it is this very childish attitude that marks the adult Jewish community of America. We attempt to remake G-d according to our human standards. G-d desired that we please him. We today desire that G-d please us. G-d created man. Today man creates G-d - a do-it-yourself diety made of clay and putty whom we can shape and mold according to the present whims, of superficial modernity. The strength of true Judaism througout the ages, has been that we refuse to sacrifice principal on the altar of popularity. The Torah of G-d does not need adjustment. It is we who need to be adjusted. The lofty Torah must not descend to our level, we must pick ourselves up and raise ourselves to the level of the Torah.

This, then, is the message of Rosh Hashanah. It is meant to arouse us, to sensitize us, so that we feel life's saving tensions between what we are and what we, as children of G-d, can become; between what we habitually do, and what we should be doing; between the Jewish lives we are leading and the Jewish lives we could and should be living. The blast of the shofar is designed, not to re-assure us that all is well with us, but to call attention to the many areas which need mending; not to pamper us, but to challenge us; not to feed us spiritual tranquilizers, but to sound a moral alert.

I wish all Jewry a year of health and spiritual wealth.