By Rabbi Daniel J. Mikelberg
The school year is well underway. This year we have a few extra weeks before the festivals arrive. We could say that Rosh Hashanah is very late! Conversely it would be better to say that the festivals are right on time! We do find ourselves with greater opportunity to prepare and make the most of our time leading up to the high holy days.
A year can certainly make a big difference! Last fall we were immersed in a hard fought election campaign. Many of us found ourselves sitting in opposing camps. There were tense moments as we considered out competing mandates. For the most part the intensity of our differing Canadian perspectives has now passed and we find ourselves observing our friends down south. As “outsiders”, it is much easier to look critically at the modern day process of electing a leader. Two things are apparent: (1) we need to be actively involved in the democratic process – there’s so much at stake, (2) making our voices heard is all about fostering relationships – we can’t be strangers. These principles are not reserved for the election season. Just as Judaism expands beyond the high holidays, governance certainly expands beyond elections. A year round dedication to society building is how we make good use of the gift of time.
The opening words of Genesis model the importance of electoral engagement. From chaos, God creates order. On day six, God creates humanity. We read: The Eternal said, it is not good for man to be alone. These are foundational words that speak to the importance of relationships. Together we are better. Hand in hand we can tackle the multitude of challenges in our world. In collaborating and making our voices heard we strive to build an inclusive and fair society. We can’t leave this obligation to the other; it’s up to each of us to be constructive with our efforts and our time.
We can celebrate some recent triumphs. In the 2015 federal election 68.49 per cent of eligible Canadians voted. In 2011 the figure was only 61.1 per cent. Especially noteworthy is that 57.1 per cent of Canadians 18-24 age voted in 2015 compared to 38.8 per cent in 2011. These figures are headed in the right direction. But especially as Jews we can do more. To name just a few key issues, our Jewish voice is unique in its commitment to Israel, to the importance of tikkun olam and to minority rights. In order for our priorities to carry weight, we need to foster authentic relationships. Needless to say, making friends and alliances takes time.
Looking back to the words of Genesis, Rashi, the renowned medieval Torah commentator, explains that it would be wrong to take a literal approach to the story of Creation. Rather we are expected to pursue the meaning of these powerful words and integrate them into our lives and our communities. The creation story illustrates the importance of reading the world not simply as a random collection of phenomena. Our world is formed with a coherent message – a message of morality, holiness and hope. God is described as thoughtful and meticulous with time. Created in God’s image, we are asked to parallel this care and devotion with our personal time.
Shortly we will hear the sounds of the shofar. What an amazing call to action! And just like Abraham, we will declare: Hineni – I am present! Let’s make the most of our time! May this be a year of sweetness and joy.
Rabbi Daniel J. Mikelberg serves at the Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto.