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The month of Elul has always been portrayed as a time of introspection. As we prepare for the coming good and blessed year of 5775, we should also stop to consider the occurrences and events of the past year, 5774. Like most of life, it was a year of contrasts and mixed messages. Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiated for most of the year but any sort of meaningful agreement failed to appear. The end of the year was marked by a bloody and difficult war in Gaza, the true results of which have yet to become clear and visible.

Even though our coalition government was constantly wracked with inner dissent and public criticism, it somehow was able to maintain itself and provide our country with a modicum of much-needed stability. But the political landscape in Israel is always a bleak one, with the thunderstorm of new elections consistently hovering just over the horizon. All current polls indicate that any new election in the foreseeable future will not really change our current political lineup.
The disagreements and carping will continue but we are so accustomed to that that it really has very little influence on our daily lives. Some of the great corruption trials of Israeli leaders took place last year and showed how far the mighty fell! One hopes that lessons have been learned by those who are now in power. Yet I am not convinced that the old boy mentality that so breeds corruption has been eradicated in our wonderful little country.
We have new Chief Rabbis here in Israel that were elected and installed this past year. The Chief Rabbinate here in Israel is a most vital and powerful institution. Tragically, it has been badly tarnished over the past decade, with many a scandal and even criminal activity associated with it. It should be the hope of all of us that those newly installed will be successful in rehabilitating the image and operations of the Chief Rabbinate.
At a recent ceremony held here in Jerusalem, over three hundred young men received rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate. There is a great deal of talent present in this coming generation of Torah scholars and budding rabbinic leaders. It is my fervent hope that somehow these young men will find positions of spiritual leadership that will satisfy them and thereby enhance the society of Israel.
There is a strong desire amongst the non-observant Jewish society in Israel today to know more about their faith and their history. In short, they may not yet desire to become observant but they have a great desire to become more Jewish. They should be aided in this effort by this new generation of rabbinic leadership. I feel that the non-observant society is not interested in kiruv per se. Many are threatened by the enormous change in lifestyle that they would have to undergo. But Jews in Israel, in the main, want to be more attached to the Jewish story and the Jewish society. I think that it is certainly the obligation of the official rabbinate in Israel to help them achieve this important goal.
The new year is an uncharted mystery to all of us. But whatever it will bring, understanding and appreciating the lessons of the old year will certainly be helpful. This is true on a personal level as well as on the national scene. All of us made mistakes this past year and we pray that the holy day of Yom Kippur will again wipe the slate clean for us. Nevertheless, we should recognize those errors that were made and resolve not to repeat them during the coming year.
We should strengthen family bonds, even with those with whom we may disagree personally or ideologically. We should be much more tolerant of all sections of our society, be less judgmental and refrain from imposing our standards and behavior patterns upon others. At the same time we should strengthen our loyalty to the Torah and to the observance of its commandments.
We should fortify our commitment to Jewish life and the basic norms of Torah morality here in our country. These goals are indeed lofty ones that will occupy much of our time, efforts, talents and resources, in this coming year. We should not shrink from the task. The rabbis in Avot taught us that it is not incumbent upon us to finish the task but neither are we free to abstain from attempting to do so. This should be our guide for the coming good and blessed year.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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