Rabbi’s Column in the Bi-Monthly “Messenger”

Relocation is a blessing!
Dear Friends,
There is a popular modern Hebrew phrase: “Meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazal.”  Freely translated, this phrase means: “Relocation is a blessing!”  More literally, the phrase means:  “When a person moves to a new place, their luck changes (for the good).”  And so, even as we feel the stress of moving to a new location, folk wisdom reassures us that ultimately change will be for the good.
The tradition upon which this modern folk wisdom is based is found in the following passage of the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh HaShana 16b):  “Rabbi Yitzhak taught: Four things cancel one’s doom, namely; charity, heartfelt prayer, changing one’s name and changing one’s actions….Some say that change of place [also avails].”
Various explanations of this Talmudic passage have been offered.  Some say that our Sages were keenly aware of the role that environment plays in our lives.  Their way of describing this environmental affect on our lives was to say that each land, or territory, was ruled by the edicts of its own particular angel.  When a person moves from one land to another, from one city to another, from one territory to another, that person is moving out of the realm of one angel and into the realm of an entirely different angel. What a wonderful way to describe the adjustments that become necessary when one relocates!  Our Sages understood that each place has a unique “physical climate” which in turn affects its “spiritual climate.”  And when we move, we must adjust accordingly.   The same is true of a congregation that moves….
There is a more mystical explanation of the idea that change of makom [place] helps change our destiny for the good.  In Hebrew, traditionally, one of God’s names is haMakom.  God is “the place” that “contains” us all.   God is everywhere.  In a mystical sense, Meshaneh Makom, meshaneh mazal means: “One who changes God, changes one’s destiny [for the good].”  Now, how do we, mere humans, “change God?”  By performing mitzvoth!   In other words, according to the mystics: When we perform mitzvoth, God is pleased, and as a result we succeed in affecting our destiny for the good!
With the High Holy Days right around the corner, relocation takes on an added dimension.  When we move, we realize that we know ourselves in our former environment.  But, what hidden potential might be unearthed in our new environment?  Will we be able to see ourselves in a new light?  Will we discover new avenues in which we may shine?   Will we be renewed?  Folk wisdom, based on the Talmudic teaching of Rosh HaShana from ancient times, assures us that there is a silver lining to relocation.  In fact, the theme of the High Holy Days, teshuva, is a spiritual form of relocation!
Each year, we change.  As the High Holy Days approach we try to discern the import of the changes we have undergone and to realign ourselves with an eye toward the future.  But, this year, the physical change we have made as a congregation will make the process of discerning who we are and who we want to be going forward that much more tangible.
May our relocation be for a blessing!  May we embrace the New Year of 5777 with open hearts and minds,  and with love and appreciation of our rich and powerful tradition.
I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Shana Tova u’metukah – a good year and a sweet year filled with blessing and with joy!