Recommitting to Our Values and Our Traditions to Achieve New Goals

Abraham’s directive “to go” continues through us. We are inspired by his faith and motivated by his alacrity in fulfilling the wishes of the One Above. 

By Rabbi Levi Volovik / Chabad of the Berkshires

Welcome to the new year of 5782! We are certain that we all were inscribed for a shana tovah, a good, sweet new year, just as we wished each other.

 A look at the Hebrew word “shana” (year) tells us that it shares the same three-lettered root as the Hebrew word for “repetition.” And if the yearly cycle is repetitious, what makes it a new year? The answer is that the word shana, with one different vowel, also spells the word for “change.” The personal and positive change that we make in our lives starts us off on a truly new year. It means going a step beyond our comfort zone; breaking an old habit; taking on a new mitzvah; sharing an act of kindness; and recommitment to our values and our traditions to achieve goals above and beyond the past year.

The past month with its High Holidays, brought with it a wide range of emotions, carefully packaged in 30 glorious days. Like a ride on the roller coaster, we soared upward and around, reaching greater heights as we went from soul-searching introspection to resolve, from the solemnity and awe-inspiring days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to the joyful days of Sukkot and the ecstatic dancing of Simchat Torah. We experienced the gamut of expression of body and soul through our prayers, through hearing the stirring sounds of the shofar, and through the joy in fulfilling the mitzvot of Sukkah, etrog, and lulav, and showing our love for the Torah. 

The month of Tishrei is the catalyst for starting with reinforced strength and determination and the change it takes to make the year ahead what it should be: better, brighter, and fresher in every area of our lives. And as we leave the month of Tishrei and enter the new month of Mar-Cheshvan, which has no holidays of its own, we are off on the start of a new and fulfilling year.

Now is the time to “unpack” our bag of inspiration, which includes last month’s feeling of oneness with G-d, of unity with others, and the joy that we garnered during the entire month to infuse any and all spiritual lethargy with renewed energy and positivity.

Reading the recent Torah portions of the week, we were further inspired by our ancestor Abraham, particularly in the portion of “Lech L’cha.” And always, guided by our past, we find our road map for the future. Abraham was faced with one of his many tests, leaving the land and the home he was accustomed to for 75 years of his life and going to the place that G-d would show him. An unknown destination, yet Abraham was quick to respond to G-d’s command. Abraham shared eloquent testimony to the existence of a Creator with all those he encountered, and he was dedicated to his mission of elevating humanity and bringing honor and glory to G-d’s name. Despite the difficulties, Abraham complied with every request, and he passed every test with flying colors.

Abraham’s directive “to go” continues through us. We are inspired by his faith and motivated by his alacrity in fulfilling the wishes of the One Above. Continuing his mission to uplift the world through loving-kindness, we, too, forge ahead toward a brighter and better world. As we resume daily life that sometimes floods us with problems and challenges, Abraham’s outlook empowers us to not simply swim with the tide. We can lift our eyes to see the ray of hope in every situation and to know that every difficulty leads to a more purposeful, productive, and meaningful life.

The Midrash relates a Rabbinic narrative of when Abraham set out to fulfill the most difficult of his trials, taking his beloved son, Isaac, to the altar. As he approached his destination from afar, accompanied by Isaac and his servants, he turned to his beloved Isaac and said, “My son, what do you see ahead? Do you see what I see?” And Isaac responded, “I see a magnificent, blossoming mountain, reaching the heights in its full glory and majesty.” And then Abraham turned to his servants and asked the same question. “We see nothing ahead,” they answered, “only wasteland, desert, and desolation.” Abraham then proudly walked ahead with Isaac, who shared his vision of a promising future, leaving his pessimistic servants behind.

Here at Chabad of the Berkshires, we share Abraham’s mission and his vision, knowing that Torah is eternal, and our existence as a people is eternal – Am Yisrael Chai!  We are thankful to our Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, for giving us the opportunity to share that vision with our special community, as do thousands of Chabad emissaries respectively around the globe. Encouraged by the support of our many friends of Chabad, we see a beautiful path ahead, blossoming and flourishing with creativity, activity, and a Judaism that is alive and vibrant.

We see a community ensuring the future for ourselves and for our children through our commitment to Torah learning and Jewish education.

We see ourselves unified as one people, no matter what our background and affiliation, working together toward higher ideals and goals in life.

With a change in the right direction on the part of every one of us – and, indeed, everyone has room for improvement – there is no limit to what we can accomplish for our families, our people, our community, and our society at large. 

In our optimistic vision for the coming year, Chabad of the Berkshires is planning to offer creative events throughout the year that harnesses the incredible potential toward meaningful goals.

At Chabad, membership is not required to take advantage of all our programs. Just give your heart, your mind, and a little of your time, and you will surely find something that you can enjoy. Together, let’s breathe new life into this wonderful year and continue to march forward to our ultimate redemption!  

Rabbi Levi Volovik is co-director of Chabad of the Berkshires in Pittsfield.