Festival reaffirms 'our common humanity'

Biden makes Rosh Hashanah ‘cheshbon nefesh’ plea: What type of world do we want?

In a message on eve of new year, US president wishes Jews ‘health, healing and progress,’ stresses ironclad bond to State of Israel

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

US President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, September 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, September 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Susan Walsh)

US President Joe Biden issued a greeting to the Jewish community on Sunday, a day ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, wishing those who celebrate “a year of health, healing, and progress.”

Biden noted that the High Holiday period, which begins with Rosh Hashanah on Monday evening, commands “those who celebrate to pause, look inward, and reflect on the past year. It is a time to undertake an inventory of the soul, a cheshbon hanefesh, and to ask of ourselves and of each other questions that go beyond our own individual faiths: Who do I want to be? What type of nation do we want to forge? What type of world do we want to create?”

The US president, who is marking the first Rosh Hashanah since he took office in January, said the Jewish new year is “a reminder of our infinite capacity to transform our lives and begin anew.”

He noted the opportunity “to rebuild our communities through empathy, acts of kindness, and compassion. To seek repentance, or teshuva, when we have fallen short of our values. Rosh Hashanah is a reaffirmation that we are each endowed, by virtue of our Creator and our common humanity, with the ability to bridge the gap between the world we see and the world we seek.”

Biden said while the United States has made “significant progress” toward those goals, there is plenty of work that remains, including the need to “speak out with clarity and conviction against antisemitism wherever and however it manifests.”

He also noted the need “to reaffirm our ironclad bond with the State of Israel.”

He ended with a wish to have the Hebrew year 5782 “be a year of health, healing, and progress” and extended his “warmest wishes to all those celebrating Rosh Hashanah in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”

Biden met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the White House late last month.

In a call the president held with US Jewish leaders on Friday, Biden said his administration was “going to maintain those deep bonds that started at the birth of the Jewish state — a bond I had the honor of renewing with Prime Minister Bennett at the White House last week.”

During that call, Biden also said that the message of the High Holidays, “I’ve always believed, is universal.” The president said the central idea of “renewal” was at the heart of his 2020 presidential campaign.

“The High Holy Days also allow us to take collective responsibility for renewal,” he said. “I happen to be a practicing Catholic, and one of the things I like about my pope today is that he’s all about renewal and forgiveness.”

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