Believe that you can change
The smallest change that will make the biggest impact this Rosh Hashanah is believing you can change. Because most of us don’t. We really believe that where we are and who we are is where we will be and who will be next year. And Judaism cries out that this is not true.
It goes back to our very roots. The Jewish people became a nation as they left Egypt. A nation of slaves, who knew nothing but a lifetime of work for someone else’s profit, walked out to freedom. And faced with death or slavery again at the shores of the Reed Sea, they instead walked through the parted waters on dry land to freedom. In a moment, their lives changed — everything changed.
But maybe you don’t believe in miracles. Then just look around you. How many stories are there of leaders, thinkers, celebrities who started as failures, as nothing, and turned their lives around? Most famously for us, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison to become South Africa’s first democratic president. And here he has biblical precedent — in the Talmud, Rabbi Eliezer tells us that Joseph was released from prison in Egypt on Rosh Hashanah (Rosh Hashanah 11a). Here was a classic story of an immigrant slave falsely accused and imprisoned, left to languish for the rest of his life in a foreign jail with no family or support, taken out of prison and in days appointed to the highest political office in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And it happened on Rosh Hashanah — the day that everything can change.
So, the most powerful change you can make in your life this Rosh Hashanah is to believe that your life can change. That you can be the person you really dream of — that your health, your wealth, your family life, your interior and exterior can flip unrecognisably. That your dream can be real. That is the smallest but deepest change that you can make this Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbi Greg Alexander is a rabbi at the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation and has more than 20 years of experience in Jewish education and community building, both here and abroad.