Rosh Hashanah 5775: Words, Meditations, Deeds

By Robert Israel

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, arrives at sundown on September 24. It is a joyous yet solemn time. Known as one of the Days of Awe, it is a time when Jews take stock of their lives, reflect on the global community, and pay homage to those who have passed away. By asking to be inscribed in the Book of Life, we are acknowledging our mortality.

As we listen to the blasts of the shofar, the ram’s horn, its shrill notes connect us to our tribal roots over five thousand years ago when Jews gathered to worship under the stars. The blasts of the shofar awaken us from our summer reveries and remind us to prepare for the harvest, and to bind together the unraveled strands of our lives.

During this reflective time, I recall a prayer I have spoken aloud many times since boyhood:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

As a youngster, the prayer admonished me to humble myself before an omnipotent deity. In adulthood I have come to see it also as a cry for peace. By intoning the words, “my rock and my redeemer,” Jews acknowledge a personal and collective commitment to a higher purpose. We search within ourselves to find strength to combine words and meditations to create a world of justice, a world of peace. It begins within ourselves; it spreads to others.

When I have faced difficulties, this prayer has brought me solace, has shown me a path, and has helped me to face uncertainties with courage and faith.

Yet peace does not come about by merely lamenting the endless wars and conflicts that threaten Jews and non-Jews each day in the Middle East and elsewhere. Nor does peace come by intoning only words and meditations. The process of achieving peace requires deliberate efforts, placing ourselves at the mercy of a higher entity for guidance.

It is with this is in mind that I add one more phrase to “words of our mouths” and “meditations of our hearts.” It is this: “with our deeds.” By combining words and meditations with our deeds we become empowered to transform ourselves and to inculcate others to join with us. It is a quest Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda once described as setting out “to sell light upon the roads.”

We welcome Rosh Hashanah 5755 with heartfelt words, meditations and with deeds so that we have the strength to go forth to shine light onto even the darkest roads.

Robert Israel can be reached at


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