Why is this year different than all other years?
Sounds a bit like Passover… but it's actually already Rosh Hashanah and we are still grappling with the realities of Coronavirus.
And as we deal with these new realities, some of us may be celebrating the holiday and participating in socially distanced services, while others may even be praying alone.
This reminded me of Chanah, who Scripture tells us also prayed alone, while standing distant from others. In fact, her prayer has inspired the prayers of Jews throughout the generations and is read at the Rosh Hashanah service each year.
On its face, there doesn't seem to be anything too remarkable about what she did. She was pained by her childlessness, and went to the Holy Site to pray.
But in reality, by her actions that day, Chanah displayed the true power of Jewish prayer; she sought to alter not only the physics of nature, but the very nature of theology itself.
To Chanah, a sincere prayer would have the power to break down boundaries. Any boundaries.
So she didn't just ask for a child, she also asked that he be righteous. There goes the limitations and restrictions of nature, asking that a barren woman give birth, and there goes the fundamental principle of free choice, asking that the child be truly righteous.
This is why her prayer is the best blueprint for our prayers and why it plays such an important role in the Rosh Hashanah service. It tells us that nothing is beyond our reach, if we only try hard enough and reach out to G-d with sincerity.
No matter how bleak the odds may seem or how distant that goal, we have the ability to reach it and excel.
So regardless of where you pray this Rosh Hashanah, whether alone at home, or in a socially distanced service, let us each pray for a good year, a year of good health for ourselves, our friends, our city, state and country, and indeed all of humanity.
Mussie joins me in wishing you all a wonderful Rosh Hashanah! May our homes very soon overflow with friends again. May our year overflow with success and accomplishments. May our hearts overflow with happiness. And may we all be inscribed for a good, healthy, and sweet new year.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.