Letting go of control or admitting you are not in control should be a relatively easy thing to do. And yet human beings have great difficulty with this. Heck, I have great difficulty with this. Yet last night, that was the message to a small group of us from the JMI group. Rosh Hashanah is the holiday where we give in to Hashem and fully believe, with all of our being, that G-d is in control of the world.
While Rabbi Aryeh Markman’s message was clear, it was hard for me to fully grasp. On an ordinary day, yes, I can see this and feel this. I have learned to see the wonders of the world, the miracles. I see it in my daughter, in nature and in so many places. But these days, the world seems so broken and out of control.Here we were, sitting outside, some of us in masks due to Covid, some of us in masks due to the dangerous air quality from fires raging out of control, and many of us, including myself were anxious. The last few days forced us back into our homes because the air was so bad to breathe. It’s still bad.
We sat around the table discussing the state of the world, and yes politics, and I was not on the same page as so many of my friends… not even in the same book. I have never felt a greater divide, especially among Jews.
And I have never felt more focused anti-Semitism. My nieces in New Jersey being sent an invite to join their high school’s SJP group (one of the more anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian groups out there)… California’s educational curriculum being blatantly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish… A hand written banner being flown over the 405 blaming Jews for wanting a race war… And on and on and on.
Things are bad. So if G-d is in control why all of this?While I am willing to admit there is much I do not know, I am having difficulty understanding why Hashem is letting this happen. Yes, we have Free Will, so yes, perhaps a lot of this is being caused by us, and Hashem wants us to be the ones to fix it… and this leads to Aryeh’s explanation of Yom Kippur, the time for us to own it, the time for us to stand up and say I am sorry.
If Rosh Hashanah is the time to admit and cede control to Hashem, then Yom Kippur is the acknowledgement that there ARE things we do have control over. And while we have NO CONTROL over how someone will react or respond to our apology, it is in WITHIN OUR CONTROL to give an apology sincerely and from the heart.
A marriage or relationship is based on a similar principle. We have no control over whether or not our spouse or partner is happy or can be happy. We do have control over creating an environment that is conducive to happiness.
We must learn to say I love you, I am grateful for you, I appreciate you, I am humble in front of you, and I will always have your back and always strive to make you happy… And we must have faith that our partner is doing and saying the exact same things. This means we are putting others ahead of ourselves, but are safe in knowing we are protected and looked after.The same goes with Hashem. We must say the exact same things… and know the answers will come back to us. Having trust that G-d is in control and is looking out for us can be hard at times, especially now with so much confusion and divide. But what other choice do we have?
To believe in a world that is simply chaotic and has no order would be devastating. So we must say, “we do not know” at times… and that is okay… We give up control… we take control… This is what it is to live.
So this Rosh Hashanah let it go. Truly see and feel the awesome power of G-d. Let it wash over you. Know with all of your heart and soul and mind that G-d is in control. Let those ten days be a building block for the year and for your faith. And then on Yom Kippur, own your own stuff. Take responsibility for your own behavior… feel the things you said you would do and did not. Celebrate the good things you did do. Own your mistakes and apologize for them, and promise to never do them again.Whether you are physically in services, streaming them, or creating your own experience this year, these two simple tasks can make all the difference. Let go and hold on. Push and pull. Give up control where you do not have it, and take control where you do.
We are all experiencing the same “lifequake,” and yet how we each handle it is completely different, and so we must address these issues individually. This also means we must support each other and recognize that everyone deals with things in their own way. We are not all the same, and that is what makes the world so wonderful, and also challenging.
So during these High Holy Days… and in fact, every single day… look to Hashem… give in to His almighty power and know that He is in control… but do not stop pursuing kindness and doing the right things, for we all have control over ourselves or at least the way we react to our own thoughts and to outside events. And this also means asking for help when we need it.
Let go, but hold on. And may we all have a true and meaningful Shana Tova.