The Concept of Do Overs

by Arliene Botnick, December 29, 2021

Often, when children are playing a game and they don’t like the way the game is turning out or they don’t like the move they just made or the answer they just selected, they say they want to do a ‘do over’. They want to change what has happened because it’s still able to be changed. As we are on the cusp of a new year, the secular year 2022, that concept of ‘do over’ permeates so much of our mindset. What is in our power that we can still change, modify or amend?

Do overs are deeply rooted in our Jewish lives. Imbedded in our Jewish calendar, when a New Year begins, we begin with do overs. In celebrating the Yamin Noraim, the High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we were immersed in the do over mode. We were to take stock of our souls (Cheshbon Hanefesh) and examine the many things in the past year that we wanted and needed to change in ourselves, in our families, in our community. On Kol Nidrei, we examined vows that knew we knew could not be kept or were not kept and yet we continued to make vows.

Now it is the ‘do over’ opportunity again! We call them our New Year’s Resolutions for 2022! What we can do better in our lives? How we can make our world better? What are the things that have been done incorrectly, poorly, inadequately, that we have the power to change? Some of the traditional resolutions have to do with very personal things… perhaps losing weight, taking better care of ourselves, exercising more. Many of the resolutions might have to do with finances, better ways to earn money. to save money, and to spend money wisely.

But the most important resolutions are the ones that we make as human beings, as Jews. Our sages tell us, in Pirkei Avot 2:21 (the Sayings of Our Ancestors) that “We are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it”. In other words, we can’t make it all better, but we can’t stop trying! When we read Torah, we learn of the difficulties, challenges and pain our ancestors endured. There were the natural disasters such as famine in Canaan; there were periods of slavery and oppression like the 430 years of slavery in Egypt; there was a continuous seeking to find our homeland and to be safe in our homeland. And ultimately we continued to have faith!

In a myriad of ways, our lives are truly better today as Jews living in Canada. We have a Jewish state, though not ideal yet, and we know we can help it be better. Even with Covid and this 5th wave disrupting our lives, most of us have enough food to eat, have homes to live in, have good medical care, opportunities to work and study, and to live freely and openly as Jews. Yet, there are many do overs we should be looking to accomplish in this year 2022. We may have enough to eat, but there are many in the world that still go to bed hungry and who still die of starvation. Our weather doesn’t seem to have been horribly impacted yet by global warming but we see signs of the effects of global warming through all the extreme weather events- hurricanes, tornadoes, erratic temperature fluctuations- that have been taking place in so many areas. We may have homes to live in, warmth and shelter but there are still people dying in the cold and alone… We are free but we must never take our freedom for granted. We suffered slavery. Let’s fight against the enslavement of any group.

What more can our list of resolutions, ‘do overs’, consist of in this year of 2022? We have to look at what -big or small- is in our power to change. Let’s also begin with being thankful and appreciating all the privileges and benefits that we have. We have to value our family and friends, and if we are blessed with good health, value that as well. And we must also do everything we can to help those in our wider community who need our help. Tzedakkah (charity) and Gemilut Chasadim (deeds of loving kindness) are not choices, they are commandments. We must do as we are commanded, be caretakers of the earth. We were created in God’s image and with it, as is told to Adam in Beresheet, know it is our job to take care of this earth, this world. We can be kinder to the earth, to the water, to the air by limiting our carbon footprint, by recycling, reusing, reducing and rethinking.

We must learn to appreciate this wonderful Jewish community in which we live, and value the fact that we have a synagogue in Mississauga, something up until 1973 that did not exist. It is our Jewish home and needs our dedication. Solel continues to flourish only if it is supported by its members.

Each year, each month, each day, we can do ‘do overs ‘. We are far from perfect but we have a guide on how to live and how to make this a better world. We have Torah. Rabbi Ben Bag Bag tells us, at the end of Mishna Avot: “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it.” Let’s take the opportunity to study Torah, read the stories of our ancestors, and learn from what our people experienced. Like Moses, the reluctant hero, was called upon to speak up for the Israelites, we have to stand up against injustice, not only the injustices that we as Jews suffer, but against all injustice. As Hillel wrote: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, then when? “The Torah is considered the blueprint of creation. It can be out blueprint for our ‘do over’ list.

I wish for all of you a healthier, better, safer covid free New Year of 2022. Keyne Yehi Ratzon May it be God’s Will!

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