Meeting the Challenge

A Rosh Hashanah Sermon
by Rabbi Benjamin H. Englander
September 1952

Rosh Hashanah in the Torah is referred to as Yom t'ruah -- a day of sounding. "U'vachodesh ha'shvi'i b'echad la-chodesh yom t'ruah yi'hiyeh lachem -- And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have unto you a holy convocation, a day of blowing the ram's horn."

In our prayers, it is designated as the Yom Hazikaron -- the Day of Remembrance, whereas tradition has associated this day with the idea of judgment and designates it as the Yom Ha-din. We read in our prayers, "V'chol bo'ei olam ya'avrun lefanecha ... v'tachtoch kitzvah l'chol briotecha ... v'tichtov et g'zar dinom -- All who enter the world dost thou cause to pass before thee ... appointing the measure of every creature's life and decreeing its destiny."

"V'al ha'medinot bo ye'amar ... On this day it is decreed which countries are destined for the sword, and which for peace, which for famine and which for plenty. On this day every creature stands in judgment and is recorded for life or for death."

Thus, the significance of the day -- which comes to us through Talmudic teaching as Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a New Year -- is fleshed out by other the three names: a day of sounding, of remembrance and of judgment.

Rosh Hashanah is a recognition that life is a constant challenge and that the Milchemet Ha-chayim -- the battle of living -- is fraught with repeated crises. These challenges and crises frequently shake the very foundations of our faith, and at times we despair of the future and become despondent.

However, it is also the Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. We call to mind the trials and tribulations of the past, when probably our predecessors thought that their world was coming to an end.

We are reminded of the Flood, when Noah was rescued through the mercy of God and the Ark e had told him to build. We also recall the Akedah, when Abraham thought he would have to sacrifice his one and only son. In all these cases, in some manner or form, their worlds were preserved and God's purpose was accomplished, even though man did not comprehend the larger picture.

We recapture our faith in God and nurture sufficient courage for ourselves to meet the challenges of the present. However, Rosh Hashanah warns that "Faith alone is not sufficient" for God's will to be done, we must be stirred to action.

The shofar, with which the name Yom T'ruah is identified, calls for practical implementation of actions in the hope of receiving God's blessing.

"Uru y'sheinim mi-sheynatchem -- Awaken ye slumberers and bestir yourselves, ye who sleep."

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the seriousness of the present world challenge to peace, security, and to the future of mankind. Yet, history has proven that in the past, with faith in God and the inspiration of the courage of our ancestors to face their problems, justice was always triumphant. This is not a time for despair nor dismay.

As Jews, however, it is important for us to be mindful of the fact that it is our privilege to be the generation of redemption, the ones who have seen the rebirth of the State of Israel.

For the newborn State, this Rosh Hashanah is still extremely critical -- Yom Ha-din. Its existence continues hangs in the balance in three crises. There is the constant threat from the Arabs of a second round of hostilities. There is the challenge of continuing to absorb new penniless immigrants with whom the little that is available must be shared. And there is the problem of balancing the economic backing that was jeopardized at its very birth a mere four years ago.

And to compound the problem, the critics and detractors of the Jewish State are vociferous and potently vocal.

Yom Hazikaron bids us to remember this:

1. The amazing accomplishments of the fledgling state despite adversity and most trying circumstances.

2. The struggle of the Jewish people for the realization of our 2000-year-old dream. How we hoped! How we prayed! The gallant fight of Silver, Newman, and Sharett on the floor of the United Nations! The bravery of the Israeli soldiers on the battlefields.

We are asked to remember our oath of long ago: "Im eshkachech Yerushalayim -- If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning; may my tongue cleave to its palate, if I do not remember thee, O Jerusalem, above my chiefest joy."

How could we dare to fail to meet our rendezvous with destiny! How could we dare to fail to meet this challenge!

The t'ruah of the Shofar calls upon every one of us to rally to the support of the State of Israel to make personal investments through the purchase of bonds to the limit of our financial capacities and to continue to aid in the work of resettlement and rehabilitation by outright gift contributions.

Ashrei ha'am yod'ei t'ruah. Happy is the people who understand the call.


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