As I'm sure each member of our community can attest, the news that the lockdown in Melbourne would be extended for another week was far from welcome. It feels like there was almost no time in between lockdowns, and now this one just got longer. However, in truth, we all know that the lockdown is a distraction. The most important thing for all Australians to focus on is not the lockdowns but getting vaccinated. The lockdowns are a temporary measure designed to buy time. The road back to normal lies through the astonishing miracle medicine which has been developed in this time of extremity.
It is human nature to focus on the thing which is immediately bothering us and not on our final goals. We could call it the bias of immediacy. In management theory it's usually referred to as focusing on the urgent instead of on the important. It's normal for us to do this. And it was normal for the Jews in the desert as well.
As the People of Israel moved closer to Israel, they were constantly challenged with distractions, with things that had little or nothing to do with their eventual goal of settling the Land of Israel and building a society there based on truth, justice, kindness and spirituality. To help maintain their focus, G-d gave the Jews many commandments which were about what they would do when they finally entered the land and what sort of society they should build there. The continuous discussion of settling, building, and farming the Land of Israel provided the focus necessary to power through the many distractions.
As we approach Rosh HaShana, it is natural to worry about what sort of Rosh HaShana it will be. We all remember last year and recognise that doing the chagim in lockdown is far from the ideal. However, this is a distraction. While we'd love to be together physically with our community, we should remember two things which will help us focus. The first is that even when we cannot come together in a building, in spirit we are together if we wish it to be so. The second is that while Shule and the services are a crucial part of making Rosh HaShana more meaningful, it is actually up to each of us to find the meaning in the day, everyone for themselves. The sounds, the spirit, the togetherness (and dare I say, the drasha) are all things which help us come to the right frame of mind. However, we proved last year that even without the ceremony, we can treat Rosh HaShana properly if we make an effort. To have as much success in that mission as possible, it is crucial that we all begin preparing now so that we can bring in the new year as successfully as possible, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.