A man walks into a New Orleans bar and says, “I’d like two hurricanes and a corona,” and the bartender says, “That’ll be $20.20.”
This is the joke of the year in my hometown of Metairie, La., and in many ways, it seems to sum up the chaos and uncertainty brought on by a tumultuous 2020. Many of my friends seem to be nervously awaiting its end in the hopes that 2021 will have something better to offer than the anxiety-inducing curveballs we are currently enduring.
Since the beginning of time, the Jewish Nation has been warned not to seek the advice of astrologers. Interestingly enough, the Talmudic sages saw astrology and the constellations as a credible science. Why, then, are we so careful not to look to these methods to determine our future?
The very same sages who gave credence to astrology proclaimed, “Ain mazal l’Yisrael – the Jewish Nation is not bound by any constellation.” A person does not need to fear what the constellations say about him because this does not determine his destiny; he has the power to change his fate through prayer.
The Hebrew calendar, with its own set of months, dates and constellations, lifts us up to a place that defies the logic and seemingly unbending reality of this world. If prayer can change our destiny, imagine combining the power of the Jewish new year with the forces of teshuva, tefillah and tzedaka – prayer, repentance and charity! 2020 may not look too promising, but a new Jewish year, welcomed with the sound of the shofar and a heightened state of spiritual awareness, can usher in a completely different reality.
Find a safe shofar blowing near you; let your hopes and wishes for the year ahead ride on its prayerful sound. May the challenges of 2020 fade into the dust and may this new year, 5781, bring us health, prosperity and blessings of every kind.
Bracha Slavaticki is co-director of Chabad Decatur.