A vintage Rosh Hashanah greeting card
A vintage Rosh Hashanah greeting card

We can each do our part to make 5782 a ‘Shanah tovah!’

With wildfires raging across Northern California, the last U.S. troops pulling out of Afghanistan without being able to take thousands of at-risk Afghans with them, and Covid-19 keeping a tenacious and deadly grip on our nation, it seems somewhat tone deaf this week to say “Happy New Year.”

Nevertheless, at sundown on Sept. 6, Jews around the world will welcome in a brand new year, 5782. And how can we not wish, fervently, that it will be a good year, a shanah tovah?

What constitutes a good year? It doesn’t mean a year filled only with happiness. That is a fairy-tale version of what “good” means.

Does it mean a year in which good things outweigh the bad? That’s reductionist, and, more to the point, rather impossible to quantify.

From the perspective of Jewish tradition, one might say that a good year is a year devoted to doing good deeds. Doing mitzvahs. This is an idea worth exploring.

Let’s take the wildfires, which scientists attribute to several causes, chief among them being our ever-warming planet. Climate change is real, and it is exacerbated by human activities. It can also be mitigated by human effort. In this new year, doing good might involve taking steps to decrease our own contributions to climate change by, say, cutting down on our electricity usage or reducing our carbon footprint. We might get involved politically, pushing for legislation to help the environment. We might give tzedakah to groups doing that work.

Turning to the tragedy in Afghanistan, it’s too late, and not helpful, to complain about whether the exit and evacuation could have been handled better. That’s over now. The last U.S. military planes departed Kabul.
What we can do, however, is reach out to help the nearly 7,000 newly arrived Afghan refugees in our country. In the Bay Area, Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay and Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley have resettled nearly 100 Afghan refugees over the past month, people who feared being targeted by the Taliban had they stayed behind.

These organizations need volunteers, they need donated clothes and household items, but most of all they need money — some of it to keep their own operations going, but a lot of it to directly assist the new arrivals, in the form of gift cards the people can use to buy what they need. Helping a new immigrant settle in this country is a powerful way to make this year a good one.

When it comes to Covid, get vaccinated and wear a mask.

So, as an old year passes into history and a new one approaches, think of how you can make it a truly good one. A year filled with mitzvahs and making our world just a little better.

With all our heart, we at J. wish you a Shanah Tovah!

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.