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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Holy New Year

September 28, 2011

Dear Friend of Israel,

With all that's been going on at the U.N. over the past weeks, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which begins tonight at sundown, seems especially well timed this year. It's a time when the Jewish people recognize God's dominion over the world. As leaders at the U.N. have been discussing the possibility of a Palestinian state, which would seriously jeopardize Israeli security, we need this reminder about God's sovereignty now more than ever.

Though the traditional New Year is a time of frivolity, the Jewish New Year is much more somber. Jewish tradition teaches that, beginning on Rosh Hashanah, God judges the entire world and all its inhabitants, determining their fate for the year to come. Ten days after Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This sacred time is known as the High Holy Days, or Ten Days of Repentance.

Jewish sages teach that our fates are "written" as God judges the world on Rosh Hashanah, and "sealed" on Yom Kippur. We know that we are judged by our actions during the course of the whole year, but just as one would be that much more careful while sitting in a courtroom in front of the presiding judge, we know that now is our last chance to make good before the King of Kings, the Judge of Judges.

And, of course, this spirit of humility and reconciliation is to follow us throughout the year, throughout our lives. The High Holy Days are when we have the most power to transform ourselves and channel our abilities and resources to serve God.

As we approach this sacred time, it is with deep gratitude that I thank you for enabling The Fellowship to bring dignity and joy to some of the most vulnerable among God's people. Over the past few weeks, The Fellowship distributed basic food staples and special holiday foods to thousands of hungry Jewish people in the former Soviet Union and Israel. This humanitarian effort was made possible only by the grace of God and the generosity of The Fellowship's donors, who care so deeply about Israel and the Jewish people. It is deeply humbling — and inspiring — to be a part of such loving kindness.

Whether you are Christian or Jewish, may these days bring you the bounty of God's blessing. May the spirit of generosity and loving kindness that you have consistently shown to the people of Israel be noted by our compassionate and sovereign God — and may the entire world be blessed with His most precious gift of shalom, peace.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
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