Preparing For Transitions
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
O God, I see it now, and my sick brain
Staggers and swoons! How often over me
Flashes this breathlessness of sudden sight
In which I see the universe unrolled
Before me like a scroll and read thereon
Chaos and Doom, where helpless planets whirl
Dizzily round and round and round and round,
Like tops across a table, gathering speed
With every spin, to waver on the edge
One instant—looking over—and the next
To shudder and lurch forward out of sight—
There is a picture of my father and Uncle Noach zt”l on my desk directly in front of me as I write and learn. They continue to be powerful influences on all I do, and yet, I miss them terribly. It is frightening to think back to the Rosh Hashana before each died and consider that God decided on that day that my father and then my uncle would die before the end of the year. I am frightened when I consider that God not only inscribed His decree for Rav Noach, He also included the effect on me and each of the thousands of people affected by Rav Noach’s death. At such moments, I experience the feelings described by Edna St. Vincent Millay in the poem above.
We naturally reflect on all the experiences of the past year as we review our actions and life in preparation for the Day of Judgment. Many of us are breathless when we consider that so much was determined last Rosh Hashana. We are frightened as we wonder what will be inscribed in our “Books of Life” for the coming year.
We are not the first to experience such dread of the Day of Judgment: They read in the book, in the law of the Lord, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading. Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all the people, “This day is holy to God your Lord. Don’t mourn, nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Don’t be grieved; for the joy of God is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:8-10)
The natural reaction may be to tremble, but Nehemiah and Ezra taught us to rejoice so that God will rejoice with us, and strengthen us. The essential ingredient of Rosh Hashana is the joy we feel when celebrating life’s adventures.
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