Yakov Saacks

Praying for a better year


We all know and recognize that 2020 has been a year of extreme anxiety and difficulty. The spaghetti hit the fan in early January when brush fires destroyed millions of acres of land in Australia, then Kobe Bryant and others were killed in an accident. February and March were no better with the impeachment debacle and the insane Netflix series Tiger King, featuring Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic. This mini-series took us all down a few intellectual notches.


Then in mid-March came the ultimate plague, the Coronavirus or Covid -19. Life stopped as we know it. So much sickness and death. NBA cancelled the rest of the season. The Tokyo Olympics were pushed to 2021 and schools closed, houses of worship were shuttered, restaurants were relegated to only take out and then all workers, except for essential employees, had to stay home.

Then to add to our troubles, George Floyd was brutally killed, leading to protests in the streets objecting to police brutality. Sadly, opportunists took advantage and looted stores and shops, and rioters/anarchists shaking off their Covid blues went to work on what they do best. It was and still is insanity.

When will this all end?  When can we get back to normal?

Most people have written off 2020 as the year of Gehenna and cannot wait until the calendar turns the page to 2021.

I have not.


As far as the Jewish calendar is concerned, everything begins anew on Rosh Hashanah, the very first day of the Jewish New Year. This year Rosh Hashanah begins Friday night, September 18.

What we believe is that the whole world is viewed and judged with a new spirit on Rosh Hashanah, completely unlike any other year. Last Rosh Hashanah was clearly one when it was decided that the year ahead would be a challenging one (even throwing in killer hornets). But now, thankfully, I might add, the year is soon to be over.

This Rosh Hashanah we have an opportunity to reverse this negative trend we have been experiencing these past few months. This is a unique moment in time when we can beseech the heavens to take away the sickness, madness, worry, apprehension and uneasiness. We need to be clear that Covid, with all its ramifications, cannot go on. It must stop. We need to rebuild our esteem, lives, homes and businesses.


Judaism teaches us that we are designed with eyes in the front of our face and not in the back. If you think about it, having an eye in the back of your head would be really valuable, especially when it comes to parallel parking. The reason why we are fashioned this way is to teach us that we must look forward to the future and not constantly look back. In fact, the only time we should look back is to learn from our mistakes. However, all things being equal, we are only to look forward.


I plan to offer a special Covid prayer this Rosh Hashanah, together with all my other prayers and good resolutions. I recognize that prayer is the very underpinning or foundation, if you will, of our lives. A prayer should never be taken lightly. Prayer is the language of the soul in conversation with God. Judah Halevi, the great 11th-century poet, said that prayer is to the soul what food is to the body. Without prayer, something within us atrophies and dies. It is possible to have a life without prayer, just as it is possible to have a life without music, or love, or laughter, but it is a diminished thing, missing whole dimensions of experience.


The following my unique prayer for the New Year.

On this holy day of Rosh Hashanah, I, Yakov, the son of Shterna Sarah, offer the following prayer.

We live in unprecedented times. There have been over 180,000 recorded deaths from Covid.

There is so much sickness, pain, suffering, unhappiness and emotional trauma.

There is shamefully a great division in our country, where voices are raised and tempers flare.

There is such uncertainty – which is causing more uncertainty.

We need help.

For all who have contracted Covid, we pray for your care and a speedy healing.

For those who are vulnerable, we pray for safety and protection.

For all who experience fear or anxiety, we pray for peace of mind.

For our fellow citizens and residents we pray that we regain respect for one another.

For public officials and politicians, we pray for wisdom and guidance.

May the Jewish year of 5781 be the polar opposite of the previous one.

The above is just a suggestion. Please feel free to use or draft your own.

Blessed be the New Year.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.
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