Rosh Hashanah
First Day: Genesis 21
Maftir: Numbers 29: 1-6
Haftorah: 1 Samuel 1:1 - 2:10

Take One Step and Change Your Life Forever ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the Holy Days is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

Story The Beginning of a Shul
In the nineties our family was the first observant family to move Southeast to Denver’s newest congregation. At the time the group of Jews desiring to form this new congregation under the direction of Rabbi Yaakov Meyer called themselves Southeast Center for Judaism. Yaakov received assistance from Aish Ha Torah, which is under the direction of Rabbi Berl Wine, and other Jews many of whom at the time were not seriously observant. At the time there were very strong feelings about what Yaakov desired to do. I cannot share those feelings, many were NOT nice. Yet Hashem was greatly involved in this sprout effort.

Naomi and I moved to the area before any service was held. In fact it was before the formation of a new shul was general knowledge. It became knowledge when our plans to move were known. Yaakov was blamed by many well meaning Jews for our departure from Denver’s West Side Community. He received considerable heat at the time. Naomi and I loved Yaakov and we still do. We had to be a part, even a small part, of this new congregation that was not even announced. In addition, it was the only area where we could find the type of home that we could afford. It was a condo. We became charter members when the shul did form.

Why am I telling you this? The first service held in this area was at the Days Inn on Erev Rosh Hashanah. I will never forget Rosh Hashanah day when over 150 Jews from very different walks of life met for the purpose of praying together. Then days later over 100 Jews met there for Yom Kippur. This was a clear sign that the Southeast area was ready for a Jewish presence.

Yaakov Meyer is to be highly commended for his brave steps in forming this new shul which officially began several months later on Shabbos Chanukah. Now six years down the road the new shul, which is now officially called Aish / Ahavas Yisroel, will be meeting at the Red Lion Inn. Why? Because they are expecting about two and a half times what their new shul can accommodate. This Rosh Hashanah, G-d willing, over one thousand Jews from all walks of life will gather to pray. May Hashem continue to bless this great effort and vision to reach out to the Jewish Community.

Congregation Aish / Ahavas Yisroel reminds me of the birth of Yitzchok. Our great forefather Yitzchok was conceived on Rosh HaShanah as was Samuel. Up until this time both Sarah and Channah were barren. One can only imagine the prayers of these two observant women. Their prayers reached out and touched the Creator. Their prayers had impact. However, dear reader, even though that is the situation and by no means do I want to diminish this fact... every prayer has impact. Nearly seven years ago the prayers of 150 Jews crowded together in a hotel had impact. Dear one, your prayer has impact. I do not want to diminish the impact of even one single Jewish prayer.

The point is, if we for one reason or another cannot gather together in a shul or a hotel or somewhere where other Jews are praying on Rosh Hashanah, we can still gather together in prayer. We as Jewish people can gather together in unity of prayer on Rosh Hashanah. Our prayers will have impact. Our prayers will have results. Thank G-d!

Within the world there are scoffers. There were those who said ‘Sarah will not have a baby. She is too old. She is beyond the time of childbirth.’ There were those who made similar comments regarding Channah. Yet on Rosh Hashanah the gates of Heaven opened and Hashem heard Sarah’s prayer and Channah’s prayer. The same can happen for you. Whatever your situation is, remember the gates of Heaven are open. Pour out your prayer like a spring to Hashem. Let the words flow, let the feelings flow. Let go!

Our sages point out that not only did Sarah and Channah pray but they also repented. Yes, these two very righteous women repented! Isn’t that interesting... Two women we hold in high regard repenting... Two very spiritual women repenting... What does this say to us? What meaning does this have for us? How should we interpret this?

Chassidim, just as Sarah and Channah repented, we are to do likewise. It makes no matter who we are or who we are not. Rosh Hashanah is the time for all Jews worldwide to repent. I would like to remind all of us that repentance is NOT merely saying we are sorry. What is repentance?

Repentance is acknowledgment of sin. One must take ownership of their sins. That means one must think long and hard to identify their sins. One must go internal. One must contemplate. One must think!

Repentance is like constructing a second home five years after living in the first. One does not want to rebuild the exact same home. One considers what changes need to be made in the second home. Then one has the architect incorporate these changes in the design of the new home. Dear, dear reader, it is NOT enough to just sweat blood over identifying our sins. We must make a plan to NOT repeat our same errors. We must take the necessary steps that will prevent us from repeating our former errors.

Repentance requires restitution. That means we must return what does not belong to us. We must pay - that is, make good - for any damage resulting from our error / sin.

So, holy reader, when the sages said that Sarah and Channah repented, this is what they were saying. They did not just mutter words. They repented!

When a Jew moves from mumbling words on Rosh Hashanah to genuine repentance it has powerful, powerful results. It impacts the world.

Dear readers, when 150 Jews met on Rosh Hashanah seven years ago, Hashem saw many different steps and levels of repentance. Their repentance has impacted the world.... if we only knew!

Yes, I said steps and levels...
Recently I spoke with a young Jew who lives in a non kosher setting, surrounded with non observance. This Jew has not finished high school. The relatives in and around the home are generally opposed to any form of Jewish observance. It is difficult. This individual is drawn to a more observant life but appears to lack 100% commitment. For one reason or another there are many attractions that are difficult to give up.

Well, Chassidim, Judaism IS NOT ALL OR NOTHING! Rosh Hashanah is NOT all or nothing either. Hashem looks on the heart! Hashem does not look at us like we look at each other. I recommended to this individual, ‘Take a few committed steps towards Hashem. Judaism is not all or nothing. Give up some bacon. Attend shul once a month. Say the Shema every morning, attend at least one service on Rosh Hashanah.’ Dear reader, I don’t want to give the impression that I approve of Torah violation, but all of us need to understand that there are steps of return and levels of observance before we become seriously observant.

Remember, returning to Hashem is in steps and on various levels. So on Rosh Hashanah identify several areas that you can repent for. Make the changes and go forward. Remember, we don’t reach the top of a fourteen thousand foot mountain in one step. Many steps and plateaus are required. The important thing is, take a step. Reach for a plateau. Go for a higher level.

Dear reader, when 150 Jews met on Rosh Hashanah seven years ago each of them took a step. Hashem was deeply touched. The gates of Heaven were opened! The world was impacted. Each of us has the same opportunity today! I encourage all of us to take one step and change our life forever.

Li Shaw Naw - Toh Vaw - Tee Caw Say Voo
“For a Good Year, May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life],”

Wishing you the best!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk
Click "Search JewishPath". A box will appear. Type in the subject of your choice to search JewishPath.

Weekly Studies

JewishPath is a sponsor of B'nai Noach Torah Institute. As a sponsor we are permitted to offer one FREE E-Mail course on a limited basis per individual from BNTI's Introduction Courses. We invite you to visit and choose an E - Mail Intro Course. BNTI offers Intro Courses in Judaism and Spirituality {7 Noaich Laws}. BNTI Responses are NOT AUTO!!

B'nai Noach Torah Institute offers dozens of tuition e - mail courses. Please visit BNTI's Tuition Courses page.
For Jewish Classmates: Gematria, Parsha, Tehillim, Medos, High Holidays and many more...
For Spiritualist Classmates: Bereishis, Torah, Blessings, Intro. Hebrew and many more...