Clergy’s Corner

Read Rabbi Barras’ Monthly Reflections — “Rav Bar Oz

In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Cantor Rachelle Nelson to share some thoughts with you. You may contact her at with any comments.

Am I making a difference, even a small one, in this world?

As the gates close on Yom Kippur for this New Year, what song will you sing? What melody will you remember to take with you that will help ground you and make you feel whole and complete? Moses left us with two songs as the gates closed on his most incredibly long and miraculous life. He left us with “The Song of the Sea” and Psalm 90. The first song reminds us that God is our strength and that we will endure and sing God’s song even in the most challenging of times. Psalm 90 reminds us that the days of our lives should never be taken for granted. We must learn to live these days with a full and righteous heart. This is the kind legacy that Moses left for us, and which we want to weave and leave for our legacy as well; not only for our children, but for all humankind.

I well recall composing my first song. I had just learned my first three chords on the guitar and now felt surely ready to be a great composer. It’s quite amazing what you can do with just three simple chords and a mind full of melodies and dreams. Isn’t that what it was like for Moses at the end of his life? His mind was full of melodies and dreams. Can you imagine the endless journey with all the countless challenges that Moses and the Jewish people endured along the way, and to finally be able to reach his destination? Yet, Moses' dreams never fully came to fruition. Instead, he climbed alone to the top of a high mountain that gave him a view westward into the Promised Land.”

It is there that he sat quietly and reflected on his life. He surely asked himself, “How do I leave my legacy with the right words and song? There is so much I need to say and do before I die. How do I remind my people not to be distracted by the many gods that will want to influence them from the myriad of cultures that will surround them? How do I condense my life into just a few chords?” At the end of Moses’ life he went and spoke these things to Israel. He said to them, “I am now one hundred and twenty years old; I can no longer be active. Moreover, the Eternal has said to me, ‘You shall not go across yonder Jordan.’”(Deut. 31:1-2).

Before the gates close at Neilah for the New Year 5780, each one of us must climb alone to the top of our own mountain and have a conversation with God. We need to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves, “Have I been living a full and righteous life? Am I making a difference, even a small one, in this world? Have I given freely of my heart, and have I touched others with my goodness and generosity?” May these questions and so many more, find their answers as we grow and find fulfillment in our lives.

From my family to yours, Shana Tova, a sweet and healthy New Year..

Love, Cantor Nelson

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