We are days away from celebrating our New Year, Rosh HaShanah, some of us are making lists of groceries to buy, preparing special desserts, baking round challot, checking to see if we have our supply of honey in. I am practicing my singing to re-embed the special melodies, the nusach, for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Our holidays bring a measure of preparation with them, as do all special occasions. The taste, the flavours, the tam of each holiday is unique and special.
We are about to enter the year 5780. At out Selichot service on Saturday evening, we spent a few moments considering the wisdom of our elders. The gematria of the letter peh is eighty. As it says in Ethics of Our Fathers: “When one is eighty years old, s/he has reached a special strength.” Peh also is the Hebrew word for mouth. This is a year, 5780, where we need to be especially careful about what spills over the banks of our mouths. We can raise each other up with the poser of our words and we can denigrate and demean another. In this coming year let us all use the power of 80 – peh – to speak words of kindness and truth.
On Rosh HaShanah, we can say “Shanah tovah um’tukah,” which means “May you have a good and sweet new year.” The greeting can be shortened to “Shanah tovah” (“A good year”). As your rabbi for this coming year, I wish each of you Shanah tova, and may you each be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.