Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – when we contemplate the mysteries of existence and creation, and our own behavior and goals – have come and gone. Sukkot – which marks the harvest and commemorates the protection God provided for the Jews when they left Egypt – is also over.
And now, autumn has returned. Temperatures dip each week; the light gradually diminishes. We no longer awake to the bright sun but to the gray dawn. All around us, change is evident. The sublime emerald leaves that merged with the blue skies just a month ago are turning golden and drifting toward us.
Let us welcome their arrival. Leaves turn sunlight into food for trees. When they no longer can provide food, the leaves are released by the trees. Their colors are stunning and their gold, and red and pink – along with their veins, which transport water and nutrients to all the parts of the leaf – serve as a significant part of our fall landscape.
As we prepare for the chillier months, the autumn leaves are a reminder of how we can serve our neighbors. During the Days of Awe, when we are judged by our creator, liturgy states that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah – or repentance, prayer and charity – can avert the severity of the decree.
Whether you believe in the traditional text or not, making the world a better place starts with action. While much of our culture is influenced by people sharing their opinion on social media, we can get up from our computers and connect with our fellow man. The pandemic has caused so much havoc to so many. We can reach out and listen to those who have battled COVID-19 and are still sick; to those who have lost loved ones and relatives to the virus; to those who are just afraid.
We can also assist those who are in real need of food, shelter and other assistance. Just a year ago, a Northwestern University study reported that one in four – about 81 million Americans – experienced food insecurity. Locally there are no shortages of food pantries and homeless shelters in need of donations and volunteers. And within these statistics there are plenty of Jews in need also: Jewish Family & Children’s Services offers kosher food delivery to over 500 families in Greater Boston each month.
Taking action and showing that we care for our neighbors and strangers has numerous benefits. Like the leaf, we can provide nourishment. And that sustenance can make the world a better and safer place.