By Rabbi Elie Abadie
(JNS) As Jews, every Rosh Hashanah, we rededicate our commitment to Judaism. We reaffirm our devotion to Jewish law, and we strive to maintain our Jewish traditions. We also focus on improving where we need to—on correcting our shortcomings and on growing on a societal, communal and individual level. In this way, we can make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.
The idea of a resolve to change and improve one’s ways often comes to mind during this season, although, in actuality, we are in pursuit of bettering ourselves all year.
What is it that we are looking for this year that we did not request last year? Or is it that we requested it, but never got it? Could it be that what we are asking for we already have, but we don’t recognize or appreciate it?
Over the last year here in the United Arab Emirates and in the Arabian Gulf, as part of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, we have changed history and created a new reality. We have initiated, participated and contributed to the religious, educational, cultural and social growth of the nascent Jewish community. Thanks to the vision and the bold leadership of the rulers of the UAE and the Kingdom of Bahrain, this dream reality has come to fruition.
We have been an important and significant voice that can affect change and promote Jewish-Muslim dialogue based on shared values and tradition. Our dialogue extends as well as within the greater society that we live in and throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council region and the Arab Muslim world—indeed, with all the Abrahamic faiths.
Our prayers, our lives and our fate are all intertwined. This relationship exists not only with our community, or our society or our neighbors, but with all of humanity. We have to believe that it is our personal involvement that will be meaningful and significant; we cannot rely on others to do it for us.
How different it is now, a year or so later. There is a great yearning to learn about each other and to experience each other’s traditions. Jews are learning Arabic, and Khaleeji Arabs are learning Hebrew. Everyone is so thankful for whatever knowledge they gain in order to feel closer and getting to know one another better. We do not take this newfound relationship for granted. We strive every day to nurture and strengthen this relationship and friendship.
The High Holidays are a time in the Jewish calendar year that evokes a feeling of belonging, a feeling of togetherness—a feeling that we are all children of the same G-d, living on the earth that He created for all humanity. We are charged in maintaining it and caring for it by learning to co-exist, accept each other, and live in peace and harmony. By respecting and cherishing each other’s religious and cultural differences, we learn to appreciate and find the common faith between us. Man sees what his eyes behold, but G-d sees into the heart. We ought to do it wholeheartedly.
It is important to recognize the blessings that G-d has given us; that we can see in our times a beautiful reawakening of the Golden Age of Andalus, when the three Abrahamic religions are comingling in peace and harmony. It becomes our responsibility and imperative to maintain this environment and to participate in furthering this process.
As we prepare to stand in prayer this Jewish holiday season—to thank the Almighty for the good health, prosperity and happiness that He has given us this past year, and for the great achievements that we have accomplished in this region of the world—we should also pray for peace, good health, communal prosperity and welfare of the entire world for the year to come.
Shanah Tovah and Tizku L’Shanim Rabbot!
Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie is the senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates and rabbi of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities.