A week from Sunday night the Jewish world will usher in year 5776 with the celebration of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.
One of the most noted of the prayers recited over the course of the yama arichta, extremely long day (the holiday is actually observed over two days) is Hayom Harat Olam – “today is the birthday of the world.” Sages of the rabbinic era all agreed that the Creation began on Rosh HaShanah. They argued , though, about what constituted the beginning of creation. Some used the Bible’s own approach, and suggested that Creation began with the first day of the seven day epoch. When God declared “Let there be light!” Creation started. Others argued, no less forcefully that Creation began with the formation of human kind on the sixth day of the epoch. The preceding events were preparation for human emergence.
On one hand it is simpler to understand events with clear beginnings and ends. It would be easier if Creation began with light. On the other hand, in a world in which humanity views itself as the center of all that counts, perhaps all that preceded its formation was preamble.
Today, as much as people recognize that they are not the sole recipients of Divine generosity. They realize that the planet, the animal world and the universe in which they exist are there because of the Holy One’s desire. They also realize that humanity was not crafted on a whim, but with a purpose.
Just after breath is blown into the first person’s nostrils, that creation is charged to work and protect the world. There is no license for humanity to do as it pleases with the new planet on which it found itself. It was to use the world and benefit from God’s wide range of gifts. At the same time, it was held responsible to protect the planet. Environmentalists like to remember the Torah lesson of protecting the world. They must also be reminded that humanity was not to be constrained fully by environmental concern. Humanity was charged with the balance of working the land and protecting .
A Mishnaic sage was asked which concept was the most important in Torah. He responded that Man was created alone. Had one killed him, all of humanity would have perished. Each person since should realize that s/he is in the position. If any person is killed today, not only is the individual’s life ended, so are the lives of all the potential progeny and descendants that would have issued forth.. Given recent news of senseless drive by shootings, on air murder of television personalities, ISIS beheadings and countless other tragic killings, it is a lesson well remembered.
A famous legend claims that God drew from the dust of the entire globe, no single region, to create Humankind. The Asian, the African, the European and the Americans are all descended from the same root. People must remember that . Skin color divides far much more than it ought. A year after Michael Brown died when he attacked a police officer, Ferguson remains in turmoil. How many events of the past year have been blamed on racism? President Obama talks of Americans coming together to celebrate that which binds us. Rev. Jesse Jackson refers to his rainbow coalition. There is no room in Scripture or in Jewish life or in modern times for racism. It is ugly, crude and too easily cited to explain wrongdoings that should never have occurred. It is too often used as an excuse and a crutch. It needs to be long gone.
So as the world prepares for Rosh Hashannah, let there be hope that the world will be a better place, in which all get along, in which all benefit from a world that looks to its future as it studies its past, and in which the value of life is sacred to all.