Choices…Choices…Choices!

Rabbi Felipe Goodman Just the other day I found myself telling the story of one of my daughter Ari’s friends who came to our home for a play date and instead of saying Hello to me she proceeded to recite with full conviction the following: “Felipe… I just want you to know that today I am going to make good choices!” I was shocked, I had never heard up until that moment a more concise and beautiful introduction to The Month of Elul! From the mouth of a small child I found some of the most compelling wisdom I had heard in years. Imagine if for only one day we would dismiss hypocrisy, diplomacy and masterful acting and we greeted others, even those whom we don’t particularly like with a statement that embraces the conviction that every action we perform, every word we speak has an ultimate consequence. I think we would find ourselves being kinder, gentler and more understanding and appreciative of others. Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew Calendar brings with it a special understanding of what it is God wants from us not only in the days ahead as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah but also in our lives as a whole. Yes, life is indeed about choices and the process of Teshuva, of returning to God is entirely about understanding what it means to be able to choose freely. We have the God given ability to make choices. We also should remember that with that ability comes the responsibility of understanding the consequences of our choices. It is almost impossible to understand that all choices have consequences! There are things we do today which will probably have no effect on our lives but that will affect our children and grandchildren generations later, in fact the privilege of being able to choose comes with the added burden of a very pronounced historical myopic vision. Yes, instant gratification prevents us constantly from choosing wisely and it also clouds our vision so it prevents us from adequately gauging the consequences that our choices may bring in the distant future. As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is my prayer that we all understand how important it is to focus not on what happens instantly in our lives but in the long reaching effect that our actions may have. The understanding of God throughout history as a Supernatural God contributes to this myopic effect. If we don’t see God reacting to our bad choices with thunder and lightning we believe that there is no real consequence. God, the understanding of God, the love that we feel for God and the love God feels for us is not about action and reaction! If we believe that God is actually a glorified puppet master, then yes, of course we could expect for God to pull the line every time we disappoint. Truth is, for the most part it doesn’t work like that. So, what are the choices that we should be making in this New Year that is about to begin? I think one of the most important ones is to finally decide that Judaism and The Jewish People are central to our lives. Mitzvot, acts of loving kindness and observance of our tradition should not take the back seat to things that for now

seem to be exactly what we need but that will not support our spirit in the years ahead. Let me give you an example of how as a congregation we are making better choices. This year we had over thirty; yes over thirty children from our congregation attend Camp Ramah. It is a daunting and overwhelming statistic! It doesn’t seem to be a large number but when you compare it to the numbers in the last ten years you immediately see the difference. The fact that we choose Camp Ramah over so many hundreds of different activities for our children, points to us understanding the long reaching consequences of our choices. What will this do for us in the future? It will leave us with an entire generation of Jewish children for whom Judaism is not something counter intuitive but a central part of who they are. We will see our children grow up knowing that The Synagogue and Jewish Life are not a theme park but an expression of the dreams, hope and faith that have sustained us throughout time. This Rosh Hashanah may God bless all of us with the power to engage in Teshuva, the kind of returning to God that is not only about form but also about content. May the voice of the Shofar wake us up so that we can understand the consequences of our actions. May we be conscious of what where our lives are headed so that we can change course and adjust our long range vision.

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