It has become a custom of this newspaper each September to note the arrival of the Jewish New Year with a doleful comment on the state of the world this particular month and the hope that things will change in the year ahead. Four years ago we were saddened by the eruption of the Palestinian intifada. Three years ago it was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Last year it was the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire and the hope of Palestinian reform. This week we are shocked by the slaughter in Beslan and the latest outrages in Iraq, including the death of the 1,000th American soldier in Iraq. Given the state of things, it seems almost pointless to wish for better in the coming year.
This year, however, we can confidently predict that change will come, because it is fixed in the calendar. On Election Day, November 2, Americans will make a decision that will determine the course of their future and the world’s for a long time to come. Despite all the mud-slinging and slander of this uncommonly ugly political season, there is a real choice to be made between conflicting visions of our society, our obligations to one another and our place in the world. However we choose, things will not remain the same.
Next week, Jews will gather by the millions in synagogues and cultural halls here and around the world to examine their souls and consider their lives. In the days that follow they will visit their neighbors and ask forgiveness for sins of the year gone by and good wishes for the year ahead. It is well to remember that the ritual requires not only asking forgiveness, but granting it.