When I converted to Judaism 40 years ago, the power and relevancy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers had an immediate and profound effect upon me. They have an even more emotional hold over me today, with far, far greater urgency.
As I read and say them this year, I think of how they apply to Donald Trump, and all of us who have not done enough to protect and elevate humanity. One of the magnificent attributes of the Judaism I love, is its encouragement of constant interpretation and meaning, and an unflinching focus on social and personal responsibility.
Below, please find the Rosh Hashanah prayer said before the blowing of the Shofar. The italics represent my own interpretations for this Rosh Hashanah, perhaps the most important one in my lifetime since 2001, the week after 9/11, when I could not get through the service without crying uncontrollably over the deaths of nearly 3,000 fellow humans during the World Trade Center attacks.
This year, we recall the lives of 200,000 souls lost to COVID, including one in our own family, in our prayers. Remember, the italics are my own thoughts:
“On Rosh Hashanah it is written,
On Yom Kippur it is sealed:
How many shall pass on, how many shall come to be?
Who shall live and who shall die?
(Who could have prevented most of 200,000 COVID Deaths?)
Who shall see ripe age, and who shall not?
Who shall perish by fire and who by water?
(Who shall perish on the West Coast, besieged by fire & smoke?;
Who shall drown in the South & East by floods & rising seas?;
Who dare remain silent while 3,000 Americans perished in Puerto Rico?
Who shall deny dire warnings of death from climate change catastrophes?);
Who by sword, and who by beast?
(Who by White Supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us?”;
Who by Nazi sympathizers turning Jim Crow laws into Nuremberg Laws?
Who by tearing children from their mother’s breasts,
And locking them away in cages of chain-links?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who has forced families onto food-lines to wait 4 hours for food?
Who has increased the number of food insecure children,
While offering the wealthy more and more bread and gold?
Who by earthquake and who by plague?
Who by privately admitting the Plague was deadly,
While lying, and publicly calling the Plague a hoax?
Who by modeling dangerous behavior resulting in more COVID deaths?
Who by strangling and who by stoning?
Who by denial of George Floyd’s murder by suffocation?
Who by Breonna Taylor’s being stoned to death by gunfire,
Or Jacob Blake, 7 bullets in his back, paralyzed, while his 3 children watched?
Who shall be secure and who shall be driven?
Who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled?
Who shall be poor and who shall be rich?
Who shall be humbled, and who exalted?
But repentance, prayer and charity,
Temper judgement’s severe decree—
And refusal to repent, pray, or love,
Condemn one to eternal, internal, isolation & immolation.
You shall cause the Shofar to be sounded, and proclaim
Liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants…
Justice, justice shall you follow, that you may live.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
And, the great Shofar was sounded again, for all to listen to the “fierce urgency of now,” and awaken from our sleep.