These days, so many people in the world are searching for something.
Many people are searching for happiness; some are climbing the mountains of Tibet searching for the meaning of life; while still others find themselves staring in the mirror searching for nothing other than themselves.
We are in a time of searching, and for the many who are running around on the scavenger hunt we call life, the search becomes even more challenging when one doesn’t have any clues as to what they are looking for.
While it is quite the noble task to refuse to be complacent and constantly search for meaning, it can nonetheless become a futile effort if it is done haphazardly. Take this clip from Lewis Carroll’s brilliant work, Alice in Wonderland, who innocently teaches us the importance of having a destination before embarking on a journey.
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don't know’, Alice answered. ‘Then’, said the cat, ‘it doesn't matter.’"
Ironically, my eight year old daughter, Shira, and I recently had a very similar dialogue. When I told my kids that we needed to leave the house for a couple of hours to get out of the way of the workers doing renovations, she asked innocently, “Where are we going?” When I told her I didn’t know, she astutely responded, “Then how will we know when we get there?”
As Lewis Carroll and my daughter teach us, which direction one takes in life, has to be dependant on their desired destination. And if one has yet to determine where that destination is, then all the GPS and Google maps in the world will not be able to help them from getting lost.
This brings us to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Perhaps one of the more enigmatically themed of our holidays, Rosh Hashanah is on the one hand a High Holiday, a day treated with serenity and seriousness, judgment and evaluation.
On the other hand, Rosh Hashanah also is combined with family, celebration, honey and sweet Tzimus, as well as hugs from Rabbis if you find the right synagogue. The Day of Judgment, as it is called in our liturgy, is not a day of tears and pleading, repentance and contrition. That, we save for Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is not a day for repentance, but a day for self evaluation, where one should be asking themselves what they want, and more importantly, where in life they would like to go.
And so, in reality what we should really be concerned and asking ourselves on Rosh Hashanah and the days that lead up to it, is not why we did certain things, but rather why we wanted to do them. The New Year is designed for introspection and searching within and to ask the difficult questions, “What is it that I really want, and where is it that I really want to go?”
Rosh Hashanah and the wake up call known as the Shofar, is our annual reminder to ask ourselves what it is that we really want, and sometimes, if that is really what we should be wanting. What are my goals for the coming year, and at a closer look, is that what my goals and priorities should really be?
Ultimately our true challenge of Rosh Hashanah is to find that courage to be able to look in that mirror, instead of running away from it. The starting line in our search needs to begin with the picture of what we hope to look like when crossing the finish line. Before one begins on their journey, they really need to ask themselves, what is it that I really want for Rosh Hashanah?
And once we do ask those questions and have the answers clarified in our mind, the search becomes that much easier, and life becomes incredibly more rewarding.
Wishing everyone a sweet new year of health, happiness, peace, meaning and self fulfillment.
Rabbi Ira Ebbin
If you have a question, you can e-mail Rabbi Ira Ebbin at firstname.lastname@example.org.