As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah 5782, this is the time to take stock of the past year and to introspect for the year about to begin.
As our cover story — in pictures and in text — so vividly portrays, 5781 was a challenging time in so many different ways.
Despite the rosy predictions in some quarters, the devastating COVID pandemic did not disappear. Arrogant mankind, confident in its incredible technological advances, was stunned when a virus consisting of tiny molecules turned out to be the vehicle used by Heaven to wreak destruction and panic throughout the world. In addition to the crushing loss of life, millions, if not billions, of people were locked inside their homes for months on end.
Finally, after frenetic efforts, we thought we had it all “under control.” We had worked out not just one but several vaccines. It seemed that soon the dreaded illness would disappear the same way polio and other illnesses of yesteryear did.
Once again we were reminded of the limitations of mere mortals, and of the fact that although we are of course obligated to undertake our requisite hishtadlus, our fates are solely in the Hands of the Ribbono shel Olam. Israel, and other countries as well, are now into the third booster shot, and still no end to the pandemic is in sight as new variants and mutations appear.
5781 was also a year of numerous crushing tragedies in Klal Yisrael. For the still-mourning families of the victims, the empty chair at the Yom Tov table will serve as a painful reminder of the enormity of their loss.
May Hashem grant them the strength and consolation they need to be able to rise above the circumstances they are facing.
Again and again, in Meron, in Givat Zeev, and in Surfside, we were reminded that “yesh Manhig labirah,” there is a Leader of this world, and all that occurs is part of the Plan, as decided by our Creator.
We are now about to enter a year of Shemittah. One of the reasons given for Shemittah is to underscore this very point. Even if it is only once in seven years, taking a break from toiling over the land gives us the opportunity to internalize the real Source of parnassah. The Gemara in Shabbos calls Seder Zeraim by the name Emunah, based on the passuk “ma’amim b’Chayei Olam v’zorea, he believes in the Owner of the World and plants,” for even the simple deed of planting seeds shows one’s emunah — after all, no mortal can know much in advance if it will rain or shine.
And that is our message and lesson from Shemittah: to take a few minutes to contemplate, and to strengthen our emunah in hashgachah pratis. It is also a time to think of the one who needs our extra help, like the farmer who is bound to forgo a full year of parnassah (and various organizations are there to give Klal Yisrael the chance to join in this mitzvah); to have in mind those who may be waiting for a suggestion of a shidduch for their older single son or daughter; to remember those who are experiencing a tough period and are eagerly awaiting a caring phone call; to consider how we can help those who have been impacted by these difficult times get back on their feet; and to remember anyone who can use some chizuk — a good word at the right moment can make a huge impact in another person’s life.
May we take these thoughts to heart, and may we all be written in the sefer of tzaddikim gemurim!