At 5:20 AM on Wednesday, I was sitting in the JFK Airport. Too early to pray, too weary to work, and too sleepy to eat, I took out the weekly Torah booklet "Dvar Malchus" which includes study portions from Chumash, Maimonides, Talmud and halacha (Jewish law).
It was only hours earlier that we were dancing in the streets of Harlem to welcome a new Torah scroll to the Chabad center run by my sister and brother in law, Chanie and Rabbi Yudi Shmotkin. It was exciting to see their community grow in Hamilton Heights and how they touch lives at City College of New York.
Joining the celebration was my brother Rabbi Yitzi and his bride, Shana. And to add to the festivities, we had a late-night goodbye party to my sister and brother in law, Zelly and Rabbi Zalmy Refson. They are moving next week to open a Chabad center in Savannah, Georgia.
So there I was at Terminal 8, surrounded by identical weary-eyed passengers. In the study booklet, there was a wonderful idea presented on that day's portion of the Chassidic book of Tanya, authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi ("the Alter Rebbe").
It says in the Torah, "Forever are the eyes of the Lord your G d upon the land, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." But the Hebrew word meireishit ("from the beginning") is written without an alef.
The Alter Rebbe explains that it alludes to the withdrawal of the divine light, signified by the alef, that happens each year on the night of Rosh Hashana, at the conclusion of the year.
Then, on Rosh Hashana day, "by means of the sounding of the Shofar and by means of the prayers... there descends a new and more sublime light that has never yet shone since the beginning of the world."
What an empowering thought. The entire universe awaits for us to come to synagogue and pray on their behalf for a happy, healthy and sweet year.
Upon landing in Tucson, after catching some shut-eye, I realized that the booklet was actually last week's and that I have already studied that portion. Nevertheless, I was glad to have studied it again to gain a deeper appreciation for the importance Rosh Hashanah holds for ourselves, our loved ones and the entire world.