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NEW YEAR EXPRESS

by Daniel Lasar    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Prologue: You board a train bustling with activity. People are coming and going in all directions. A voice booms out over the loudspeaker: "All aboard, welcome to the train. Please find your seat and enjoy the ride."

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Prologue: You board a train bustling with activity. People are coming and going in all directions. A voice booms out over the loudspeaker: "All aboard, welcome to the train. Please find your seat and enjoy the ride."

Rosh Hashanah is the time of the year when we are at a heightened state of awareness of our mortality. Moreover, it is a time when our degree of self-introspection is especially augmented. We take stock as to how we are choosing to live our lives. With the knowledge that our time in this world is finite comes the human urge to seize the day. This concept of carpe diem surely flows amidst the adrenaline surging within us with every glance at the words resonating off the pages of the machzor (High Holiday prayer book): "On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die. . . ."

In many ways, life resembles a train ride. A person boards and proceeds along a journey for a limited period of time until arriving at a final destination. At stops along the way, different people enter and exit - for some it is the beginning of the journey, for others it is the end. Over the course of the voyage, one may have encountered many different people. Similarly, every Rosh Hashanah represents one of these train stops where the coming year may bring new people into our lives, while others may depart from us.

Additionally, this pause allows us to reevaluate where our lives are headed. We can rechart the course we are on if we want. A subtle behavioral modification in one area can have a pivotal effect, such that our "destiny" is significantly recalibrated. The key question is, "Will we be courageous and honest enough with ourselves to make even an important, though non-dramatic, change in our lives?" Commitment to being a better spouse, parent, child, or teacher is perhaps difficult, but can impact lives tremendously. Dedicating oneself to lighting Shabbat candles or going to the mikvah (ritual bath) requires much fortitude, but reaps great spiritual reward.

Unfortunately, after the excitement of the High Holiday season subsides, it is only natural that the momentum generated by the experience abates. For many of us, as each year passes by, so is another year of potential improvement transformed into a year of missed opportunity. In Parshat Eikev, the Torah states that the land of Israel is "a land that Hashem seeks out; the eyes of Hashem are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year's end" [Deuteronomy 11:12]. The Satmar Rav, a great Chassidic rebbe of the past generation, offers an interesting interpretation of this verse. The Torah omits the Hebrew letter "hey" (which means "the") regarding the end of the year, designating that time period as simply "year's end". This contrasts with the Torah's choice of language in reference to the beginning of the year, where the "hey" is included. The Satmar Rav explains that this verse serves as a warning to avoid a common pitfall. People commonly resolve that the coming year will be the year for spiritual rejuvenation, only to realize twelve months later that it was just another year, another missed opportunity to alter our lives' course. The Torah is telling us to capitalize on the inspiration of the season so that the year will truly be one of growth.

May this year truly be the year, for each and every one of us, of increased commitment to the Torah, heightened acknowledgment of the purpose of our existence, and renewed vigor to serve our Creator. The time is now, the choice is ours. Seize the day!

Epilogue: And when the voice blares out over the loudspeaker, "Last stop. All passengers must exit the train," will you think to yourself, "Is this where I really wanted to end up?"

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Daniel Lasar is a third-year student at Emory Law School in Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Rosh Hashanah articles.

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