Rabbi Malcolm Matitiani
One of the many gifts that Judaism gives us is the annual opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
The Yamim Noraim give us as individuals and as a community the chance to atone for our mistakes and errors of judgment and begin to improve ourselves and our relationships to others and to the Divine. This process of teshuvah is related to another powerful understanding of our role in the world. While it seems that much of our lives is preordained, Judaism empowers us to take control of our own destinies. This is beautifully illustrated in the Unataneh Tokef piyyut. The author of this central liturgical poem of the High Holy Day services posits “On Rosh Hashana their decree is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, how many will pass away and how many will be created, who will live and who will die… who will be brought to a low state and who will be uplifted.” The congregation responds: “But repentance, and prayer and charity annul the evil decree.” By actively undertaking teshuvah, engaging in tefillah and performing acts of tzedakah we are able to change God’s judgement.
This past year has been one of profound sadness and uncertainty. Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on our community. Many lives and livelihoods have been lost and the pandemic has left us with a sense of helplessness. Shabbat and the chaggim have provided a feeling of grounding and direction, and my wish is that the beautiful liturgy and melodies of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur provide inspiration and hope to each and every one of you during these uncertain and frightening times. Although we cannot control the Covid-19 pandemic we can take practical steps to stem the spread of the virus. Following Covid protocol and making sure that we get vaccinated is in line with the Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh, ‘saving life’. This period of penitence and introspection empowers us to determine our own future, and this is especially relevant during these times of vulnerability. While we are unable to safeguard ourselves fully from the effects of Covid, we can take steps to protect ourselves as much as possible. May we be motivated to be more compassionate and understanding, non-judgemental and inclusive as we move forward into the new year of 5782. My wife Gillian and I wish you a year of health, empowerment and fulfilment. L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu v’Teichateimu.
• Published in the PDF edition of the September 2021 issue – Get the PDF here.
• Sign up for our newsletter and never miss another issue!
• Please support the Cape Jewish Chronicle with a voluntary Subscription. For payment info click here.
• Visit our Portal to the Jewish Community to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites.
Follow the Chronicle: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn