Rosh Hashana 5772
SHANA TOVA שנה טובה // My favorite story is Yitzchak Loeb Peretz's classic "If Not Higher." It is the story of the Rabbi of the Ukrainian town of Nemerov who regularly disappeared from the view of his congregants in the days preceding Rosh Hashanah. So righteous did his congregants consider their rabbi that they believed he ascended to heaven to intercede with the Almighty on behalf of his people as the Days of Awe approached. But one Ukrainian doubter did not believe that for a moment. So he decided to follow the rabbi secretly to see what he really did in the days before the New Year.
To his amazement, the skeptic discovered that instead of going to the synagogue, the rabbi arose very early in the morning, put on peasant clothes, took an axe and a rope, went to the woods, chopped down a small tree, cut the wood into kindling, tied it up, hoisted the heavy bundle on his shoulders and walked out of the forest. He headed to the poorest area of town, knocked on the door of an elderly woman, and in his disguise told her he was there to sell her firewood as the weather was quite chilly. She said that she had no money. He said he would extend credit.
She said she was too frail to build the fire. He said, "I'll build it for you." And he did. Then he went home, changed his clothes and returned to the synagogue.
From then on whenever anyone said that the Rabbi goes up to heaven to plead on behalf of his people in the Days before Rosh Hashanah, the erstwhile skeptic would reply, "Yes, the Rabbi goes up to heaven, or perhaps to a place even higher than that."
Taking responsibility for those not as fortunate as we are, takes us to a place even higher than heaven. At the World Union for Progressive Judaism we joyfully hoist a heavy bundle as we connect Jews to one another and to the Land of Israel. We take responsibility to revitalize progressive Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union, Europe, South America and other countries around the world. As the New Year approaches, I invite you to join us on our journey to a place even higher than heaven, a place where your generous contribution to the World Union will enable us to enhance and expand our sacred work of continuing to grow our progressive Jewish values of righteousness, equality, justice, knowledge and interfaith understanding.
May we all be inscribed for a good year, a sweet, healthy, and generous year in 5772!
Shanah Tovah u'Metukah!
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs