Today is what they call an overdetermined day. It is the last Shabbat of the year. It is a milestone marking an ending. How can it be that a new year awaits, just over the threshold?
It is three days until Rosh Hashanah. This is the day to prepare to celebrate the birthday of the world. And it’s the day to begin preparing ourselves for deep soul diving, that is, for making services count by using the time for reflection. It is the time to begin accounting for how we’ve treated others over the last year.
Today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. And every anniversary brings a sense of deep sorrow. So many were lost. So much has changed since then, so much more distrust, and a growing edge of discord in the very fabric of our culture and even of our souls.
We mark this day with tears and laughter, with hope and despair. It is a time of endings. It is a time of beginnings. If one feels a bit teary and overwhelmed on this day, September 11th, 2015/28 Elul 5775, then join the club. It is the club of remembering and mourning.
The Psalmist teaches, “Teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” It all goes by so fast. The cruelest irony must be that by the time we truly comprehend just how fleeting this life is, we’ve already used up so much of it.
But I’m not complaining – not really… I’m just saying that today is an overdetermined day, filled with enough ambivalence and sadness and joy as to be utterly overwhelming. This evening, as Shabbat begins, we will sing together, thankful for our community, one of the few true constants in our lives. Our individual stories are all so different, our experiences so precious and unique. In the end, however, we are joined by a common sense of perseverance.
We are in this place, right now, giving thanks, seeking solace. Even as life accelerates forward, one way only, we are comforted to know that we are not in this alone. And that, by the way, is why one joins a synagogue – to be a part of a collective that stands together, that shares a sense of purposefulness and destiny. On an overdetermined day like today, the certainty that we are here for each other is a comforting balm.
Liza and I and the whole Stern Gang wish you a sweet new year. May it be a year of peace and wholeness and health. Yes, there will be bumps and jolts. But please God, may we gather next year and reflect on the end of 5776 together, remarking just how precious our lives are, especially when we live them together in our TBA community.