Rosh Hashanah Prayer for 5781
Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz
Eloheinu, velohei avotenu,
Our God, God of all generations:
Help us to thoughtfully reflect on the year just past and to courageously embrace this year just born.
Let us begin by remembering the overwhelming without despairing.
This past year will be forever etched in our memory as the year of the pandemic and the year of the protests.
We mourn the 948,000 souls who have perished in this pandemic worldwide; the 198,000 here in our own country; the 16,000 here in our small state of New Jersey.
Open the gates of healing for the bereaved and the bereft. There are so many mourners.
We bemoan the loss of lives and the loss of livelihoods—families shattered, businesses shuttered, jobs lost, dreams dashed.
Open the gates of our compassion for the hungry and the homeless, for the dispersed and the displaced—for all those suffering economically and emotionally.
Yet in this time of darkness let us also recall the points of light that illuminated our way—the heroic healthcare workers, the valiant front-line workers, the bus drivers and the grocery clerks who went to work to save lives and to sustain lives.
Open the gates of our gratitude for all the essential people in our families and communities.
Let us also acknowledge that the dark days of this past year grew darker still when another virus again reared its ugly head—the plague of systemic racism that has never gone away in our country. We are compelled to acknowledge that racism is indeed lodged in our nation’s DNA, born of the original sin of the enslavement of African Americans and the subjugation of Native Americans.
We must contend with our collective sins of commission as well as our sins of omission, for have we not all stood idly by?
In a free society, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Open for us the gates of insight and courage for the hard work of reconciliation and reparation that lies ahead if we are to form a more perfect union befitting our country.
Poised before a watershed election amidst bitter partisan divide, may we search anew for common ground that affirms the basic human dignity of every American regardless of race, religion or gender.
Open for us the gates of freedom and equality; the gates of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In a nation so richly blessed make us more compassionate, more generous, more just.
Our God, God of all generations—at this New Year of hope and possibility may we find common purpose to do Your will; to rise to our greatest potential; to reflect our creation in Your image… and to walk forward, to peace and purpose.