As you read this letter it will be right before or on Rosh Hashanah. We are told in the Gemoro in Beitzoh 16a that our livelihood for the upcoming year is judged between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are therefore extremely careful when approaching the Yomim Noro’im, as we beseech Hashem to inscribe us for parnossoh in the upcoming year. Rabbi Label Lam told the following story that I found meaningful and wanted to share with you:
A young and very successful surgeon once told me of a job interview he had with someone who was looking to join his thriving practice. The dialogue went something like this: The doctor asked him, “What kind of work are you looking for?” (A nice open-ended question.)
The job candidate took the opportunity to answer affirmatively, “I would like to be making over $200,000 a year and be able to take off one weekday and one weekend day each week. I would need to have full health insurance coverage and it would certainly be a plus if my travel expenses were covered too!”
Do you think he got the job? The doctor told me he was appalled by the attitude. “He made no mention of what he felt he could contribute to the practice or learn, how dedicated and diligent he was – nothing! There was no talk about healing or helping people either.” This was a job interview from the black lagoon. You come in demanding and requesting and expecting. This is what you want? The boss wants to know how much grit and intellect you will bring to the workplace! Are you worth investing time to train etc.? How serious are you?
What do we learn from the statement above that the entire livelihood of a person is decided between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? We are going to a job interview and a salary review. The machzor guides us cleverly through the process. In Mussof we mention Malchios, Kingship, which helps us present our understanding of the seriousness of the task at hand. Then we speak of Zichronos, Remembrances, which focuses on our identification with the success of those who preceded us! It is an expression of optimism and our confidence in our ability to accomplish the task. Then comes Shoforos, the Shofar, which betrays our deepest desire and willingness to get it done! That covers everything.
Rosh Hashanah is not about us! It is not about what we hope to earn! It is about what we aim to do and accomplish in G-d’s world for Heaven’s sake. This year was, on the one hand, difficult, as we were shut down without notice from before Pesach until Shavuos. As a fundraiser for the school, I was scared initially to ask people for money, as I felt it was a time to give and not to take. It was a time to support and not to ask. But I rapidly learned what a giving nation Klal Yisrael is. Our parent body and friends seized the opportunity to give to our various campaigns this year. There is a famous saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. This was the precise reaction to the challenges of many yesomim whose parents died from COVID and the needs of all our Jewish mosdos. I witnessed various well-deserving campaigns whose goals were overreached in the early stages of their campaigns. People were calling each other to do their shopping or finding any other way to help their friends and neighbors. I recall juggling between Zoom learning sessions that conflicted with each other as we tried to increase our learning. Our shuls are quieter as we are even more careful not to talk in shul.
We enter the Yomim Noro’im this year with our coffers full of zechusim. We can tell Hashem that we have seriously invested in a relationship and we can ask for His help both personally and for the good of our people.
May we all be inscribed for a year of health and happiness.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman