Some Thoughts for the New Year from Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

the chosen washington dc jewish new year messageThis past summer I took some of my children to visit my younger brother, Akiva, and his family in Portland, Maine, where Akiva serves as the rabbi.

My brother suggested that we visit a very small island called Peaks Island which is accessible only by ferry.  The island is very beautiful and small.  According to the 2000 census it is officially home to 843 residents.  But as we took the boat over there the question I wanted to know was just how many of those residents were Jewish?

So we get to this island and we go to the bike store to rent bikes and ride around the island on a bike path.  I immediately started up a conversation with the owner of the store, Brad, and I asked him if he was Jewish.  He said, “no, I have a different religion;” but he then proceeded to tell me about a few families living on the island that are Jewish.  So I told my brother, let’s go meet these families and invite them to shul.

At this point, Brad interrupted and said, “What’s the matter with me?  Don’t you want to save my soul?”

So I patiently explained to Brad, that it was nothing personal, but he already has a path to travel on.   His path, his religion, leads him in one direction.  These other Jews on the island have their own path, the Jewish path, and I wanted to see if they need help finding their path, the Jewish path.  But there can be two paths that go in different directions and still lead us to the same place.

The purpose of Rosh Hashanah is to help us find our path; our path is often not like any one else’s path.  But that’s ok.  Two different paths can lead to the same place.

More than that, when we see greatness in another person’s path, then it will often inspire us and help us find our own path.

The path to our own spiritual greatness comes by first recognizing the greatness of others.

The day after we went biking on Peak’s Island, I went with my children and we climbed a mountain in Maine.  As we climbed the mountain we noticed that there was a blue trail, a green trail, and orange trail, and a white trail.  We decided to take the blue trail.   As we ascended the mountain, we felt like we were alone.  Since we were the only hikers, we thought it was our own mountain.  But when we reached the peak of the mountain we saw many other people, each of whom had taken a different trail to the summit; all the trails reached the same place.

Once we realize that there can be multiple trails to the summit, then our own trail will be that much more beautiful and easier to climb.

My blessing for you on this Rosh Hashana is that you find your path to Hashem and hopefully I will walk securely on my path as well, so that together we can all meet on the summit of the mountain.

Shannah Tovah
Shmuel Herzfeld

rabbi shmuel herzfeld washington dcRabbi Shmuel Herzfeld is rabbi of Ohev Sholom–The National Synagogue, the oldest and largest Orthodox synagogue in Washington, DC. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, and a Masters in Jewish History from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University.
He is a frequent guest columnist in newspapers and his writings have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is also host of a weekly radio show called Shmoozin with Shmuel.

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