I am a bit behind on preparations for Rosh Hashanah (understatement), and I’m sure everyone who is preparing is also quite busy, so thank you for stopping by!
Above my kitchen sink is my “wall of inspiration.” It’s a collection of quotes and advice which I find helpful to meditate on while washing dishes, or chopping veggies, etc. One thing on this wall is an excerpt from the Prayer Service for Rosh Hashanah. It’s actually somewhat related to last week’s Torah Tuesdays, insofar as it mentions amazing benefits to being constantly aware of G-d:
Praiseworthy is a man who does not forget You (but his thoughts are constantly clinging to You), and (praiseworthy is) a man who truly puts his trust in You. For those who cling to You constantly, no evil will ever befall them, and those who trust in You will not be embarrassed forever, for the remembrance of all their actions will come before You (and their merits will avert embarrassment) and You will search their actions to find a merit so they will be found righteous in judgment.
From Pathway to Prayer‘s translation of the Rosh Hashanah Prayer Service
Get it? A person who remembers to remember G-d, and really works on trusting G-d, gets tremendous reward. Something which particularly strikes me is the phrase: “no evil will ever befall them.” I can see how this may lead some to think, “um, but bad things happen to religious people all the time, so how is this promise realistic?” Good question. I think that this promise is best understood through the concept of “gam zu l’tovah.” This is roughly translated as “this is also for the good.” This concept posits that even when seemingly bad things happen, there is an ultimately good outcome. Here’s a story to illustrate that point:
The Talmud tells us that once, while Rabbi Akiva was on a journey, he needed a place to spend the night. He knocked on the door of one of the homes in the town he was passing through, but the owner did not invite him in. He was not upset, for he realized, “Everything G-d does is for the good.”
He knocked on another door, but again he was not offered hospitality. His reaction remained the same, “Everything G-d does is for the good.” Even after he had gone from door to door and realized that no one in the town was going to accept him as a guest, he still said, “Everything G-d does is for the good.”
He had no choice but to camp in a forest lying at the outskirts of the town. He was traveling with a donkey to carry his packages, a rooster to wake him up early, and a lamp with which he could study at night. Shortly after he encamped, a lion devoured his donkey, his rooster was killed by another predator, and a strong wind blew out his fire. After each of these events, Rabbi Akiva said, “Everything that happens is for the good.”
And the Talmud continues, telling us that he was right. On the following morning, he discovered that during the night, a Roman legion had attacked this village and taken its people as captives. Had he been accepted as a guest in one of these homes, he too, would have been taken captive.
And if his donkey or rooster had been alive, their braying and crowing would have attracted the legionnaires’ attention. Had his candle remained burning, they would have been able to see him in the forest. “Everything that happened was for the good.”
So, for me, the prayer from the Rosh Hashanah service teaches that if I work on being aware of and really trusting G-d, I will understand that even when “bad” things happen (like when I broke my foot several years ago), there is an ultimately good outcome (I learned to really, really appreciate being able to walk and do things without assistance). That’s a simple example. It can obviously be more complex when dealing with really tragic events, but the principle holds true.
Wishing everyone a K’siva v’chasima Tovah (a good writing a sealing in the Book of Life). Have a wonderful New Year, full of blessings and good things!!