Rosh Hashanah: Rage Against the Status Quo
Right now, even as you read this article, you are asleep. You are not unique; most of us are lulled to sleep by a constant barrage of daily drudgery. We become thoughtless creatures of habit and allow the status quo to muffle our aspirations. Even idealists can lose focus, and become fixated on chasing mindless trivialities. We need to wake up.
According to Maimonides, the shofar’s call on Rosh Hashanah is a sacred alarm clock, a call to stop slipping into the status quo. The shofar wakes us up, and demands that we reexamine our routines. It reminds us to battle against the status quo.
Considering how stifling the status quo can be, it’s no surprise that greatness is found in those who can break away from their past. Jewish literature is filled with examples of great men who defy the status quo. Abraham walks away from his country, his birthplace, and his family’s home, in order to follow his destiny. His journey leads him to become the father of the Jewish people. Ruth, a Moabite woman, leaves home out of love and loyalty to her mother in law Naomi. Her grace and kindness find her a new home among the Jewish people, and her story is included in the Bible as the paradigm of true compassion. Rabbi Akiva, an ignorant, middle aged farmer, decides that with enough diligence, even he can succeed at Torah studies. This bold decision will lead him to become the greatest Rabbi of his time. These heroes achieve greatness by breaking away from the status quo.
Most of us will not become heroes like Abraham or Ruth or Akiva. But, we need not live in unending mediocrity. We too can rise up against the status quo.
Any new challenge that you undertake is a rebellion against status quo. Any time you stand up for your ideals is a rebellion against the status quo. Any time you give more, volunteer more, care more, you have rebelled against the status quo. Any personal transformation is a rebellion against the status quo.
I know someone who quit smoking. Why? Because one day, observing his kids playing, he realized he probably wouldn’t have the same joy watching his grandchildren playing. He immediately quit cold turkey. Something woke him up, and he could no longer stomach the status quo.
Dylan Thomas, in his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, insists that we refuse to accept the infirmities of old age, and demands that we “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. Truth be told, all of us, (of any age), begin to decline the moment we become prisoners of habit. Too many of us fail to consider new perspectives and new beginnings. That is why, as the shofar sounds, we must wake up, and rage against the status quo.