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  • Andres Spokoiny

Rosh Hashanah and the Possibilty of Time Travel

The Russian cosmonaut Sergei Adveyev proved Einstein right when he became the first person to travel in time. According to the theory of relativity, traveling into the future is possible and relatively easy: the faster you move, the slower time moves for you. For Adveyev, the 748 days he spent orbiting the Earth nearly 12,000 times took him into the future. By 20 miliseconds. Fine, he's no Michael J. Fox, but still, every year, we need to adjust the clocks in GPS satellites because time for them passes slower than on Earth. The differences are miniscule but discernible, and enough to show Einstein was right.

But modern physics can't solve the paradoxes in what we usually think of as time travel to the past. Say you go into the past and shoot your grandfather before your parents were conceived? You couldn't have been born, so how were you there to travel back in time at all? Scientists agree: it's conceptually impossible to modify the past.

Or is it? In a way, this is what Rosh Hashanah is all about. Have you ever read a novel that when you reach the end, the beginning reads completely different than the first time through? The end changes the beginning. How many people have been derided as lunatics, only to be later hailed as visionaries? Their pasts changed from folly to genius. How many times have we experienced a failure, only to discover that it opened the gates to a great success? A terrible trauma that causes suffering can be transformed into a magnificent tale of endurance. The facts may not change, but the story that those facts tell changes.

For us, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a gateway to the future. They offer us the clean slate on which to start writing the New Year as a new chapter in the adventure of our lives, one we can enter cleansed of our past mistakes and errors. We renew ourselves, and everything is open in front of us.

And yet, puzzlingly, we call Rosh Hashanah "Yom Hazikaron," the day of remembrance. The same day that celebrates the future forces us to examine our past. For us, as Jews, past and future are inextricably linked, connected by our actions and by the narratives of our lives. A few thousand years before Einstein discovered the capriciousness of time, Judaism was proposing a different relation between past and future, one in which time really is relative—not to space and gravity—but to what we make of it.

Rosh Hashanah is a projectile of hope launched into the future. It tells us that we can create our own destiny, that we can alter not just our future but our past as well. It creates a world in which we need not fear time, but rather time fears us. The story of our lives hasn't yet been written: a single act of courage or kindness can change how the narrative ends. Rosh Hashanah says that we have the power to define our past by the actions we take today. In Rosh Hashanah, we cease being objects of our history and become its masters. We write our own books of life: our passion and our values are the parchment, our actions the ink.

As we approach the High Holidays, we're confronted with a formidable choice: will we be passive victims of destiny or masters of our fate? Rosh Hashanah is an ode to the power of humanity: it tells us that we can overcome fate; that we can be who we want to be, regardless of what we have been.

These momentous days remind us that being human is being both the writer and the protagonist of a story that hasn't yet been written, one in which a single action can turn the plot upside down. It's a dizzying challenge and an immeasurable blessing. Our story is one in which the best is always yet to come.

In these Yamim Noraim, may we be inspired to write our own book of life, to give meaning to both past and future through the boldness of our actions and the daring of our dreams. May the light of our generosity and the fires of our passions create a better world for all, one where past troubles are the stepping stone into a future full of hope, a place where our own actions transform cruelty into kindness and egotism into love.

May we have the courage to change, to grow, to write a new story every day. To receive every minute as a unique opportunity that can change the story of our lives. May we help others build their own stories of success and renewal. May we rejoice in our countless blessings and may we face any challenge with the force of our determination and the convictions of our values.

May we make this year count, for us, for the Jewish People and for the world.


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