To help welcome the New Year, The Ottawa Jewish E-Bulletin asked our rabbis to share their thoughts and wishes for the upcoming year.
We thank them for their thoughtful and meaningful messages and hope that you enjoy their insight.
On behalf of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, our staff and the Board of Directors, we wish you all Shana Tova – may we all enjoy a very happy and sweet New Year.
(Messages appear in alphabetical order by last name.)
Choose life! Always!
By Rabbi Chaim Boyarski, Chabad Student Network
Earlier this week, I announced, “Next week is Rosh Hashanah.” A first-year student spluttered into her drink.
“Already? Can we push it off some? We just got here!”
I wish. Time has a way of passing by. Too fast. Too soon. Four years of university passes by in a flash. Take it from me. Yocheved and I have done it four times already! Feels like yesterday.
Round and round like a bagel it goes. Each year the same. But different. The Torah tells us to: “Choose life.” Choose to live. It’s more than simply existing. Don’t let life just pass by. Choose the life you want to live. Make each moment count - twice. We need to manufacture meaningful moments. It won’t happen often enough by itself.
The Jewish calendar is full of such reminders. The joke goes, every Jewish holiday is “we won, let’s eat.” But it’s about making sure we count. The year, the season, the month, and the day.
Even the hour.
Do you know what time Shabbat starts? It’s very precise. Choose life. Live life.
May you be blessed with a good, sweet year in your life.
Shana Tova and L’Chaim!
A focus on inclusion and accessibility
By Rabbi Eytan Kenter, Kehillat Beth Israel
5781 has truly been a year like no other that I have ever experienced. We have come to see and experience the world in all new ways and, as a result, have become differently attuned. One of the areas of focus within our congregation has been related to inclusion and accessibility. With all of us spending large periods of time within our homes and with many of us not quite ready to gather in large groups, we have needed to think about what it means to be a synagogue in new ways.
In the Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah, we are told that God went to Ishmael “where he was.” Our rabbis taught us that this teaches us that we all need to connect and reach people “where they are” rather than simply expecting them to come to us. That’s why, for these High Holidays, we will be doing services in-person, but also virtually to reach those who are unable to attend. We will be broadcasting those services over Rogers TV so that it is as easy as turning on one’s television to find our services. We will be running services outdoors for people not yet ready to come inside and we will be running services for families to assure that our children are not left behind.
As we all enter into the new year of 5782, may this be a year of greater peace and greater health and may it also be one in which no one is left behind and where everyone has a place.
Moving forward with optimism
By Rabbi Aryeh Kravetz, Congregation Beit Tikvah
One of the defining characteristics of the Jewish people is that we are ma’aminim b’nei ma’aminim – we are believers who are children of believers. While this trait refers to our belief in the ultimate reunification of all of our brethren in Israel under a unifying Jewish leadership, it also has another meaning. One of the most important things that has been passed down to us from our previous generations and imbued into our Jewish DNA is the capacity and ability to believe and yearn for something greater. Despite any difficulty we may be facing, the way forward is paved with a belief and yearning for incredible things to come. It is this outlook that energizes our High Holidays as we look forward to the year ahead.
The year 5782 will, G-d willing, be a year of connection. As we safely and diligently move forward, we must invigorate relationships new and old as we retrain ourselves to value the close and intimate company of others with added sensitivity and perspective. One of the things Zoom has shown us is that behind every person and every screen there is a deeper and more dimensional life that we do not typically see. The lives of others are more complex than we may have typically thought, and it is this recognition that must guide us in how we interact with one another moving forward.
Beit Tikvah is excited to serve as the catalyst for these relationships in the year to come. Our energy and passion permeate through the slew of new programming and social events that have already begun as we hit the ground running into the new year. Children, teens and young adults, adults, families, and seniors will find an incredible number of opportunities to choose from and engage in all that we have to offer.
As we utilize our unique capability of belief and embark on an amazing year ahead, I wish everyone, on behalf of the entire CBTO community, a “ketiva v’chatima tova!” May you all be signed and sealed in the Book of Life!
With warmth and blessings for a Shana Tova U'metuka.
Determining your "headspace"
By Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn, Chabad of Centrepointe
Rosh Hashanah is all about new beginnings. It is about new opportunities. It is about a shift in perspective.
In fact the name Rosh Hashanah, often referred to as the Jewish New Year, would be literally translated as the ‘head of the year.’
Our head controls our bodily functions. Our mind defines our priorities, our goals and our direction.
The spiritual energy of Rosh Hashanah is that of determining our headspace for the coming year. When we listen to the stirring call of the Shofar we ought to reflect on how this year can be different. How we are given the power to make real and lasting positive change. How with a shift in our way of thinking we can determine the destiny of the coming year.
This past year has been challenging. We have been tested in more ways than one. Some are feeling lost and hopeless, concerned about our future.
Rosh Hashanah is a reminder that although we may not be able to change the trajectory of society, we can control the way we deal with it. We are given the energy to deal with any and all challenges. We can have a positive and optimistic approach remaining grateful for the blessings we have in our life.
On behalf of Chabad of Centrepointe, I wish the Ottawa Jewish community a sweet happy and healthy New Year!
Hooray for the season of new beginnings
By Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg, Temple Israel
The fall festivals are upon us, traditionally the season of renewal. True, this is a chaotic period, but it’s good to know we can count on the various themes of these special days. During Simchat Torah we will finally finish the year long saga of the Torah. And then we’ll start all over again with the opening words of Genesis. We know the story well: God creates the world meticulously in 6 days and then takes a rest. We witness God as being meticulous with time. These initial verses can serve as wisdom as we map out our days: “Bereshit barah Elohim et ha’shamaim v’et ha’aretz, v’ha’aretz haita tohu v’vohu – When God was about to create heaven and earth, the earth was chaos, unformed.” God is presented as the master architect with a master plan for creation. Creating the world begins with a series of separations – from chaos to order. In the first three days God creates a context for life. In the last three days, God creates heavenly and earthly bodies to inhabit the space. This journey takes darkness – both physical and metaphorical - and forms light. When we use our time well, we reflect God’s acts and bring light into our world. At this moment in time, we desperately need this glow.
Created in God’s image, we are asked to parallel this care and devotion with each moment. In coming days, with school, holidays, perhaps a return to previous routines, things are hectic. It’s difficult to imagine getting from here to there. We will get there. I pray that we will also be able to make meaning in the midst of all these new beginnings: to be intentional with our choices, to make sure our lives are balanced appropriately, to infuse our days with love.
Let’s make the most of our time!
In times of joy and in times of sadness
By Rabbi Idan Scher, Congregation Machzikei Hadas
The year 5781 has been a difficult year for so many. Last Rosh Hashanah hundreds of people celebrated the High Holy Days together at our synagogue in massive tents. It was an uplifting time. But since then there has been so much uncertainty in Canada and throughout the world. We went through two more waves of COVID-19, lockdowns, simcha plans changing, virtual school, and then finally a robust vaccine rollout began.
While all of this was going on, our beloved Rabbi Bulka shared his diagnosis with us and tragically returned his soul to our Creator on June 27th. The magnitude of this loss is impossible to describe.
During this year, we have been there for each other over and over again. We have truly felt the power of community, perhaps like never before. Our Ottawa Jewish community is here for one another in times of joy and in times of sadness. We support each other in times of need and come together during times of celebration.
We may not have clarity about what the year ahead will look like - to a certain extent we rarely do - but one thing is certain, we are here for each other and our community is here for every one of us.