As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the New Year (according to Leviticus 23:24-25), the most awesome season is upon us when we beseech God to forgive our sins and transgressions, and be inscribed for another year in the book of life, blessing, peace, and sustenance.
During the month of Elul, which proceeds Rosh Hashanah, we are obliged to reflect on our shortcomings and first ask forgiveness of friends and loved ones before we ask the same of God. We have to make amends with one another, apologizing for hurting others, whether deliberately or unintentionally. It’s easier said than done, which is why it’s such an awesome task, and time.
We pray to God for a year of happiness, health, and prosperity, and stand humbly before Him, putting our faith and trust in Him, and our lives in His loving hands. Ultimately, He is the Judge who decides our fate. But we pray that in living through the framework that He instructs us, we will merit a life through which to continue to exalt Him through everything we do.
Life and death, and everything in between, are in God’s hands. Judaism places the highest value on preserving and sanctifying life. All efforts are made to save a life. Yet, sometimes that’s not possible and we must defer to His judgment. When it’s God’s decision that it’s time to come home, as much as we know it’s a better place, the loss still sad for survivors. Even at times of a loss, there is comfort in knowing that a loved one died while receiving professional and compassionate medical care.
There’s also comfort in being able to keep someone alive a little longer so family members can say good bye and have closure. These are gifts, enabled by people, but from God.
There’s a sense of awe, that all the lifesaving services to do these, are an extension of God’s hand: Whether the EMS professionals who physically save a life, or provide comfort at the end of one’s life, the ambulances and equipment donated by generous individuals and ministries who enable the staff to do their work, or the blood services – literally the life is in the blood – through the generous donation of a selfless anonymous person whose blood will flow in the veins of another, to save his or her life.
All these are extensions of God’s hand. We can pray to God and through our prayers and actions merit His divine judgment, but we cannot be God and decide when it’s time. If someone is meant to live, these services are the extension of God’s hand that makes that possible. If someone’s time has come, the compassion and respect for life is no less significant as he or she is eased out of this life with love and grace.
This week I had the privilege of hosting Pastor John and Mrs. Diana Hagee in Jerusalem who led a number of important guests and 500 tourists from John Hagee Ministries. I was able to present to them one of the six ambulances that John Hagee Ministries has donated to Israel, and to share how throughout the life of all these ambulances, more than 30,000 people have been treated. In an age where medical care only seems to become more expensive, the cost per patient is less than $25, and this is a number that will continue to decline as more and more patients are treated.
We also met with the paramedic in Sderot near the Gaza border who treated the first civilian casualty of the recent war. His heroic but ultimately unsuccessful efforts were also conducted on an ambulance donated by John Hagee Ministries.
It’s humbling to think of such EMS work, blood, ambulances, and mundane equipment as being an extension of God’s hand. But that’s exactly what it is. Similarly, friends like Pastor and Mrs. Hagee, and all of Hagee Ministries, and the many others who provide financial resources through Heart to Heart to make this possible, all are an extension of God’s hand; saving lives among His people, in the Land that he loves.
As the New Year approaches, please accept my sincere apology if anything I have said or done in the context of bringing these reports to you from Israel have been hurtful or offensive. Let us pray that God continues to bless our actions, through which we will continue to bless Israel.
May you and your family be inscribed in the book of life and may God continue to shine His countenance upon you. Shana tova – happy New Year – from Jerusalem.