What me? Change?

Rabbi Greg Alexander – Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation

There is no question that our lives have changed radically in the past two and a half years. 

Work from home, online food orders, the rise of Netflix and Uber Eats are just a few ways that we have all shifted the way we look at our day-to-day lives and we choose more carefully when to leave our homes. 

In a few weeks we will celebrate the start of 5783. For many, it will be the first time sitting in a packed shul for three years. What will it feel like as we return to being together? As we sit in those same seats and read those same words, we know that we are not the same. We are changed by what we have lived through and we are called to be agents of change as we enter a New Year. 

Change? Me? How hard is that? Well two stories will help. One is the teacher who asked her class, “How far from East is West?” The sharpest student answered, “Forty thousand kilometres.” “And how did you get that?” asked her teacher. “Easy, that’s the circumference of Earth.”

“Great answer. The one that I had in mind is one step. Start by facing East. Taken one step, turn around and now you are facing West.” In the same way, changing ourselves does not require something radical or beyond ourselves. We don’t have to travel far. It might not need more than just a change in direction.

The second story comes from the founder of the Mussar tradition, Reb Yisroel Salanter (1810-1883) and it goes like this, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

This Rosh Hashanah, may we take this chance to look deep within ourselves, beyond the page, beneath the surface, and ask — what big or small change could we make this coming year see us be the person we would want to be?

However you answer that, may it be a good and sweet year ahead for us all.

Temple Israel www.templeisrael.co.za

• Published in the September 2022 Rosh Hashanah Digital Edition – Click here to read it.

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