Rosh HaShanah: Sanctifying Our In-Betweens

Rabbi Reuben Zellman delivered this D’var Torah on Erev Rosh HaShanah in 2006 at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. Seven years later, his words remain relevant and meaningful.

Gut yontef, L’shanah Tovah, Shabbat Shalom!

Before I begin, I want to offer my deepest thanks to all of my beloved Sha’ar Zahav community for the opportunity to be here with you this year. It is a privilege and a joy, and at this time of year I am especially grateful to God and to all of you.

Creative Common/Michael Fawcett

Creative Common/Michael Fawcett

We stand here tonight without knowing quite where we are. Or more precisely, we don’t know quite when we are. Shabbat has come in; the sun is just gone over the horizon. During this evening’s service light gives way to dark, and the old year and the new year meet. We cannot ever pinpoint the exact moment when the old year disappears forever. But we know that there is a time at sundown when it is no longer the past year and it is not yet the year to come. It is old and new, both and neither one, at the same time. For fleeting minutes on the evening of Rosh Hashanah, time and certainty are suspended, and we who have come to pray are lifted up into twilight and its mystery.

Each of us has arrived in this sanctuary in our own unique place, with our own unique stories. Together, at this in-between time, we give thanks that we have lived to see another year arrive. At this most holy interval between the years, we begin the process of
, of turning towards God and towards our own best selves. Each of us begins to search our souls to understand what we do well and what we might do better. Together tonight, we open ourselves up to new hope and new possibilities as we stand here in between.

This past spring, a college student walked down the streets of a major U.S. city on the way to work. Suddenly shouts came from behind: “Hey! Hey!” Since the woman shouting was a stranger, the young person walked on and ignored her. The woman began to follow the student down the sidewalk.