Randall Fried

The Rhythms of Rosh Hashanah

Every year, at the end of summer, the world transforms into a sepia-toned memory for many of us. The air seems filled with melodies of days gone by, and there’s a gentle tug on our hearts, drawing us back into memories of our past. For me, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, holds the weight of nostalgia while simultaneously offering the promise of a hopeful tomorrow.

As a child, I remember Rosh Hashanah as a blend of sights, sounds, and emotions. Walking into the shul hand-in-hand with my family, I could hear the echoing conversations of the congregation, each voice merging with the others, forming a unique tapestry of its own. Seated next to my father, my tiny fingers would play with the fringes of his tzizit, each twist and turn connecting me deeper to my roots.

The shofar, with its stirring call, always seemed to ripple through the very fabric of the congregation. That sound — it was like an ancient alarm clock, waking us up, urging us to reflect, renew, and recommit. To our faith, to our families, and to the bond that ties each member of our community together.

Amid the solemnity, I remember the whispered exchanges and soft laughter, the friendly jostling between children trying to catch up, while the adults wrapped in their talit would gently chide us for our chatter. These moments, seemingly inconsequential, were the very essence of what community meant.

Yet, among the many traditions and teachings of Rosh Hashanah, one particular thought always seemed to stand out – the idea of who shall live and who shall die in the coming year, the poignant reflection on being written in the Book of Life. As a child, it was a challenging concept to grasp fully, but as years passed, its weight became increasingly evident. Now, as I make my brisket, echoing the recipes of ancestors, and prepare a festive meal with my wife and children, the specter of those who are not with us anymore becomes tangible. Their memories, though, are never too far, always present in our stories, our traditions, and our very being.

This weight of absence, though, is not just of mourning; it’s of gratitude too. It’s a silent acknowledgment of the legacy passed down to us – the values, lessons, and dreams. The realization that we stand tall and hopeful because of the shoulders we’ve had the privilege to stand on. It’s humbling, grounding, and immensely powerful.

Today, we live in times where the cacophony of the modern world often overshadows these gentle rhythms of our tradition. The divisive chatter, the noise of conflict, the rush of daily life – they threaten to drown out the harmonious melodies of the Holy Days. Yet, every Rosh Hashanah, there’s a moment of collective introspection, where we’re reminded of our shared past and the promise of a united future.

So, this Rosh Hashanah, I urge you, amidst the din and discord, to let the comforting rhythm of our shared legacy envelop you. Let it renew your spirit. Let it remind you of the shoulders upon which you stand, and the immense power of the hope they’ve passed on.

It’s a call to action — to be the beacon of unity, kindness, and hope in the world today. To remember that even in times of division, the harmonious melody of our people has the power to renew and restore.

This Rosh Hashanah, as we gather to celebrate, let’s pledge to be the bearers of hope, the voice of unity, and the harbingers of a brighter tomorrow. For in our hands lies the power to shape the future, built on the foundation of our shared past. Let the sounds of the shofar guide us, uplift us, and unite us as we embark on another year of promise and purpose.

About the Author
Randy is the Director of Philanthropic Engagement & Communication at Tzedek America. For the past twenty years, Randy has also been engaged in Jewish education as an educator for teens and adults, specifically spending the past 15 years teaching Holocaust history and the Jewish history of Poland. Randy is a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and Speakers Bureau. Through Randy's communal work, he has also become involved in local politics and community outreach and has advocated for both communal and Jewish interests at the City and State level.
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