HaYom Harat Olam - On this day, the world came into being.
While we chant these words as part of our High Holiday liturgy, Rosh Hashanah does not actually commemorate the first day of creation. Rather, as we learn in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1,) it is the anniversary of the sixth day of creation when humankind came into being. On that inaugural Rosh Hashanah, G-d began with thoughtful planning, gathered the material dust, and molded its shape. With a soul-filled breath, G-d then animated the first human being.
These words in our liturgy refer to the first human as an Olam – a world– that came into being on Rosh Hashanah. The Mishna (Sanhedrin 4:5) further elaborates: “It was for this reason that humans were first created as one person, to teach that anyone who destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a single life it is as if he saved an entire world."
As we enter this season, we rededicate ourselves to perpetually striving to emulate G-d by directing our thoughtful planning to the wellbeing of others. We contribute needed materials, engage in purposeful actions, and give our very essence (time) toward sustaining worlds by caring deeply for individual human lives. This is why we invest in mending personal relationships, in giving Tzedakah (charity), and, yes, in bettering ourselves through the introspective exercise of Teshuva (repentance.)
Later in the same Mishna we learn that G-d mints every person from the mold of that first human (thus each is also a ‘world’), and yet not one person is the same as their neighbor. In response to this insight, we are instructed to declare: "For my sake this world was created!" - this human in front of me (including, but not only, the one in the mirror,) is my personal responsibility. I will identify their unique needs and commit myself to the care of the inimitable and irreplaceable world that they are.
To care for countless individual worlds is no small task. An organized, collective effort offers a more effective and efficient opportunity to uphold our common responsibility. This is precisely the role of Jewish Federations, and specifically the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. In collaboration with thousands of stakeholders and partner agencies, we collect data, glean wisdom and insight, and strategically plan how, as a community, we can serve the well-being of others and meet their unique needs. Donors, sponsors, and supporters gather the essential materials. In collaboration with our many partner agencies, we mold these offerings into purposeful actions with effective outcomes. In service of Jewish Dallas, these programs and services breathe life into a future that sustains worlds across our community.
Your connection to these thousands of worlds in Dallas, Israel, and beyond grows stronger with each success, and we take pride in all you help us accomplish. This Rosh Hashanah, please reflect upon the many worlds you sustain and the lives you improve. Our partnership invites possibility and progress, and we are grateful. This season, please consider helping us continue to improve our world. May we all be inscribed and sealed for a year of good health, happiness, prosperity, and purpose.