Rosh Hashanah’s message is “Don’t give up on your dreams.”
After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple in 586 B.C.E., he took the Jews into exile to Babylonia. Zerubavel, the last descendant from the lineage of King David, wanted desperately to return to Judaea and rebuild the Temple. When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylonia and permitted the Jews to return, he immediately laid the foundation.
But the Samarian people whom the Babylonians had moved into the Holy Land to replace the Jews didn’t want the Temple rebuilt, so they went to the lawyers and the judges with lies and deceit and got a decree halting construction.
This is what happens all too many times. G-d puts a promise in our heart, and all our opponents come out of the woodwork to discourage us — to talk us out of it. Even Zerubavel’s own men said, “We can’t do this. The task is too great.” And they just gave up, and so for 10 years there was no work done on the Temple.
G-d then sent the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:9) with this message: “The hand of Zerubavel laid the foundations of this Temple, and his hands will complete it!” In other words: “G-d says, ‘Stop brooding, begin again.’ ”
All of a sudden, something stirred inside him: “You mean G-d can still bring this to pass? Do you know how long it’s been? Do you know how many people are against me? Do you really think I can still do this?”
The prophet said: “I don’t think you can. I know you can, so get started.”
This happens all too often in our own lives.
Some of us believed we could overcome that addiction, but now it has been so long that we have gotten comfortable where we are. G-d says to us, “Begin again!”
Some of us wanted to buy a new home, but we didn’t qualify for the loan. That was five years ago. G-d says, “Begin again!”
G-d is saying, “It’s not over until I say it’s over. Begin again.”
According to Rabbi Yosef Caro (Beyt Yosef 584), who wrote the Shulchan Aruch, Rosh Hashanah is not a time to confess our sins. That’s for Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah, as seen in the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, is a time to express our aspirations.
It’s a time to believe in ourselves again — something that’s far more challenging for many than believing in G-d. It’s a time to envision what our lives would be like if the desires of our hearts came to fruition.
So as we approach Rosh Hashanah, let’s envision anew our aspirations. The child you’re praying for, see her life turned around. The troubled relationships you’re experiencing, see them turned around. The business that’s slow, see it successful.
Zechariah told Zerubavel (4:7) to get an even-harosha, a cornerstone for the final piece of the Temple. Why was it important that he keep the cornerstone in front of him before the project was completed? Because every time he got tired, whenever he was down, when he thought it was impossible, he’d go over and look at that cornerstone. That was G-d saying to him, “I will complete it. I’ve got a plan. Just don’t give up.”
Let me ask you, what’s your cornerstone? Do you have something that represents the final piece of your dreams to remind you it will be complete? You can do the same thing. If you’re dreaming of a new home, why don’t you get a new brick or a key? Let it represent the finished product.
You may have a dream to change your profession. Go out and get a little something that will represent the new work you’re hoping to do. It’s important that you keep something in front of you to see your dream completed.
My friends, if G-d puts a dream in your heart, He will certainly help you bring it to fulfillment. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, G-d can still bring it to pass.
How many of us have given up on a dream? How many of us have given up on a child or a relationship? Maybe you’re tempted to give up on the thought that you could become learned or you could achieve financial success.
Rosh Hashanah is a new beginning. You must start each day of the new year thinking to yourself, “I believe and expect that every promise G-d put in my heart, G-d will help me bring it to pass.”
Do not give in to despair, to the thought “My dreams will never work out.” Sometimes life tests us, trying to get us to give up, leaving us to think, “It didn’t work out. I didn’t get that promotion. I didn’t qualify for the new home. I’ll never find the time to study Torah. It’s never going to happen. Just fahgettaboudit!”
Time, on the other end, is pulling. The longer it goes on, the more we hear all the negative voices saying, “You don’t have what it takes; the doctor’s report says you’re not going to make it.” But if you’re going to be the person G-d made you to be, you must have the attitude that nothing is going to cause you to give up. Don’t ever give up on praying for the fulfillment of your dreams.
There’s a story of a tzadik (holy man) who dies and goes straight to heaven. The angels greet him and tell him he’s welcome in heaven; in fact, they were waiting for him. They also tell him G-d gave them instructions to make him feel especially at home as quickly as possible and to give him a tour of the whole heavenly realm right away.
One of the angels then takes the tzadik from place to place, from room to room and from hall to hall. The tzadik sees so many wonderful sights — many holy souls engaging in creative holy activities, houses of study and such.
Suddenly he notices the angel quickly walking by a closed door without opening it. He asks, “What’s inside?”
The angel responds, “You don’t want to know.”
“But I want to see everything,” the tzadik says. After a while he gets the angel to open the door. Inside is a huge room resembling a post office warehouse with shelf after shelf of packages that are addressed and ready to be delivered.
“What’s this?” the tzadik asks.
The angel tells him: “There are people who have prayed and prayed for a long time for something and lost patience with their prayers. We were about to send them what they prayed for, and then we had to cancel the package because they suddenly stopped praying!”
Never stop praying for the fulfillment of the dreams G-d put in your heart.
In the Torah portion for Rosh Hashanah, Abraham and Sarah finally have a child of their own. She was 90, and he was 100 years old. How many years do you think they prayed for a child — 20, 40, 60 years?
Never give up on praying for your dreams. It may seem impossible, like Abraham and Sarah having a child in their old age, but G-d can make a way even when it looks like there is no way!
I ask you to make a deal with G-d. Will you be G-d’s hands in making this a better world in this new year? Believe that your best days are still in front of you. Don’t settle for the way things are.
Rosh Hashanah implores us, “Begin again! You can do it!”
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim.