This past year, 5776, has been another tough one for our community. Looking back at where things were a year ago and what we could reasonably expect to happen in the year to come, I throw my hands in the air and say "oy, vey". Every few weeks there has been another eruption or mini-scandal, more airing of our dirty laundry, more factional in-fighting than the Labor party, more meaningless communication from the trustees and/or ICOM-5 (can't remember what sequel we are on). This is the definition of a farshlepter krank.
So a year on, it's worth asking: is there any reason to feel better about things now?
Coming from a perspective of 'reason', the answer would be 'no'. There remain deep-rooted fractures in our community, the restructure process was flawed, and who even knows if there will be more candidates than positions to fill to make the upcoming elections anything less than a sham?
But since when did 'reason' have anything to do with how Jewish communal life unfolds?
Did it make any sense that of all places in the world, our community would become the global epicentre for child sexual abuse in the Jewish world? This is no way seeks to minimise the pain suffered by any victims in our community. Rather to point out that the attention and coverage of our community has been disproportionate.
So, putting 'reason' aside, there could be a case for optimism. We have a concept of yerida l'tzorech aliya - a step backward before moving forward. In our case, the yerida has been a mighty one. What used to be the jewel in the crown of the Chabad world has been transformed into a dysfunctional laughing stock. But we also know that the greater the fall, the greater the subsequent rise. So we need to believe that our community will ultimately bounce back, and be stronger for it. What will be the turning point? I don't know, but it will come.
The good news is that we are on the cusp of something special - the start of a new year - when Hashem gives us the most wonderful gift of all: an ohr chodosh. The fresh spiritual energy that our tekias shofar draw into this world is something we need now more than ever. We need a fresh start that can drive us forward. Further, and as I have written previously on this site, new ohros demand new keilim. That concept is especially appropriate this year, as we are in the very process of establishing the new keilim - the new legal and governance structures - that will be foundation of our moisdos for the future.
The final piece in the picture is tekias shofar. The ba'al tekiah needs to blow firmly into the shofar to produce a mighty sound that is the pivotal moment in the Rosh Hashana tefillah. After several years of turmoil, I suggest we all need to take a deep breath out and in doing so, expel all that accumulated angst and grief. Releasing ourselves from the burdens of the past is an essential step in moving forward. There is no better time to do it than the start of a new year. Just. Let. It. Go.
And just like the sound of the shofar renews in Hashem the desire to be King of the world, perhaps that deep breath out followed by the shofar sound will also renew in us a fresh desire to rebuild our shattered community.
Wishing everyone a ksiva v'chasima tovah - a new year filled with blessings that are b'tov hanir'eh v'hanigleh dafka!