In the holiday season we greet each other with an array of blessings. The “normal” wishes for the New Year is “sweet,” “happy” and “good.” While these are all appropriate gestures, I would like to introduce two additional expressions: pleasant and purposeful.
My suggestion is based on a verse in Mishlei (Proverbs 3:17): “The Torah’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace” (or completion. In other words, purposefulness). King Solomon, the wisest of all men, tells us that everything in Judaism is pleasant and purposeful. Clearly, if we perceive something in Judaism as anything else, then it is us who are lacking in understanding of its true depth and beauty.
Viewing religion as difficult, outdated rituals controlling our way of life is not a new thing. It was the main cause of our exile and continues to negatively impact our lives today. Our exile has been defined by our leaders (from the prophets until today’s Torah leaders) as being caused by living with HaShem superficially. A paralleled superficiality is manifest as well in our physical lives. The pinnacle of shallow existence has been reached in recent years with artificial food, money, and pretty much everything.
As our redemption is unfolding, the world is changing before us. Just like the tides of consciousness for health and nutrition are spreading, so too is the search for authentic spirituality. The demand for organic, all natural, non-GMO, and all the other nutritional labels is growing. So too, the numbers of Jewish converts and baalei tshuva are staggering. There is a yearning for the true word of HaShem; it says in scripture (Amos 8:11) that there will be such a yearning at the end of days.
Our tradition is that the influx of the nations of the world turning to the Jewish people in search of the true word of God will arouse us to be more authentic ourselves. We can’t be a light onto the nations unless we ourselves are illuminated.
It is therefore paramount that we set our goals for our happy and sweet new year to be one in which we dip our healthy, whole wheat bread in organic, raw honey. Our sights should be set on a year of spiritual growth of recognition and appreciation of every revelation of HaShem’s Torah – how they are all pleasant and purposeful.
This message I’m sharing with you about the New Year’s greeting, is not an isolated thought. It is actually the primary focus of my life’s work.
I spent over 30 years studying and teaching Torah in Jerusalem. The goal of each lesson was to show my students – in every page of the Talmud – guidance from HaShem on how to become a greater and holier person. My return to America last year was with a deep passion and commitment to enlighten the diaspora drowning in the darkness of a long and bitter exile. This past year, under the banner “Pleasant and Purposeful Torah,” I’ve been teaching hundreds of lessons on social media (Facebook and YouTube), bringing the light of the Torah to the world.
As with all shidduchim (matchmaking) there is divine providence in finding the appropriate residence to actualize ones potential. In HaShem’s infinite kindness, Congregation Anshai Lebowitz and I found each other. We are a unique community. On one hand we have pure acceptance to practice authentic Judaism according the traditions and guidelines of our Torah leaders. At the same time, we are an inclusive community, accepting people for who they are and where they are in their relationship with HaShem and Torah observance. The positive energy in our synagogue is so strong, it’s almost tangible.
I embrace this new stage in life, and invite everyone to join us on our journey of constant growth in forging, developing and maintaining a close eternal loving relationship with HaShem, by recognizing feeling and living according to the pleasant and purposeful guidelines of the Torah.
Rabbi Pinchas Levin leads Congregation Anshai Lebowitz of Mequon. It is appropriate to continue wishing someone a good new year even after Rosh Hashanah, he said.