Looking Back and Looking Forward on Rosh Hashannah – September 2020 – Tishrei 5781

Our family celebrated some wonderful good news recently! As I posted on my Facebook page last week, “Finally Gabe and Marina got married! We are thrilled to welcome Marina to the family. The weather was glorious for their outdoor “micro-wedding” (Gabe’s term), with 38 guests, at Tribeca Rooftop, their original venue for the April 26 wedding-that-couldn’t-happen.”

I also posted some photos there. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/ronald.roth1.

We appreciate the good wishes many of you have sent our way. Deena and her husband Aaron are doing well in Minneapolis, caring for their two dogs, working on renovations of their house and enjoying the new camper they purchased. Deena is working in the administration at the Veterans’ Hospital in Minneapolis, where Aaron works in the security department. We had hoped to visit them this summer and possibly fly to Nashville on the way back to New Jersey, but that will have to wait.

My health has been stable. I went to Mt. Sinai three times last week for a series of checkups and overdue doctor visits. You just can’t schedule three doctors and six tests on one day. All the results so far are good, and in two weeks we will receive the rest of the results. I have no reason to think that there will be any cause for concern. I feel fine, and have been walking four miles at a brisk pace three or four times a week. I even had a colonoscopy. When I was originally due for it about four years ago Dr. Hoffman, my oncologist/hematologist said I could postpone it After all, as he noted, it was a pain in the …So I put it off and now I am told that I won’t need another one for ten years.

It is true that these months have not looked like what I envisioned my retirement to be. No Broadway shows, visits to museums, concerts, trips to places where I could indulge my favorite hobby, photography, or walks admiring all the new architecture in Manhattan. Yet, I have been very busy. The Shabbat services on Zoom from the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel have exceeded my expectations. They are inspiring and it allows me to connect to so many of the members of the congregation. I thank our new Rabbi, Rachel Salston for all of her efforts.

As a member of the Fair Lawn Community Relations Advisory Committee, I am co-chairing the Community Read of the book So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. Two local towns, Ridgewood and Glen Rock have joined this program. Over 500 people are following our Facebook group. If you are interested in reading the book and joining our group you can find us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/891629338027594

I am also working as a volunteer for Be The Match, the national Bone Marrow Registry. I wrote an op-ed that was published in the Bergen Record, our local newspaper about their good work and how my bone marrow transplant gave me a second chance at life. I was able to convince my congressman, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, to co-sponsor a bill in the House of Representatives that gives monetary support for that organization’s live saving work. He always voted for it in the past, but Be The Match wanted more Representatives to show greater support for their work by becoming co-sponsors.

I am spending a great deal of time on my adult education class for the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel, “Jewish Ethics NOW.” I love to learn as I prepare my classes. I taught about Biblical and Talmudic Judaism’s attitude towards pandemics and health issues. Now I am teaching about Judaism and race. I wanted to know what Biblical and Talmudic sources said about people with different skin colors. Was that just a difference without any other associations? I learned that there were no negative attitudes connected to dark skin color in Biblical or Rabbinic times. The Torah speaks of the divisions of humanity based on languages or national origins, not race at all. Only when Europeans began to enslave Black Africans in the 14th and 15 centuries did such an idea spread, starting with the nations that traded in enslaved people. Sadly at that time and later, the Bible was enlisted to buttress such racist ideas, even though those concepts have no basis there.

I feel grateful for being alive and the ability to be with my family. I know more than most how uncertain life can be. I also know that in uncertain times, it is possible to do good and turn to others. I once gave a sermon about that. Actually I delivered that sermon three times, once in each of the congregations I have been honored to serve. I used the prayer from the High Holiday liturgy, oonetanah tokef, as my text. I pointed out that no one knows who will live or die in the coming year, the quantity of their life. That knowledge is granted to God alone. Yet, we have total control of the quality of our lives. That prayer points to three ways to improve our lives. Teshuvah, (repentance) turning to one another, honestly admitting how we have failed them and vowing to do better in the future. That can also relieve the loneliness so many of us feel at this time. Tefillah, (prayer) opening our hearts to ultimate values, reminds us that even when so much evil surrounds us, God wants good to rule the world. Tzeddakah, (ways of bringing justice to the world) acting to help others is always a pattern we can incorporate in our lives. I am looking forward to a better year in which I am granted the ability to celebrate joyous moments with family and friends, to continue my volunteer efforts, and maybe even take a few good pictures.

Rhonda and I pray that all of you enjoy a sweet, healthy and good New Year filled with joy and peace.

3 thoughts on “Looking Back and Looking Forward on Rosh Hashannah – September 2020 – Tishrei 5781

  1. Wonderful as always Rabbi. your words truly inspire for us to do better and good in this world despite what is going on now.
    Thank you.. Shana Tovah to you, Rhonda, and your family. Looking forward to a better year.


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