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Goodness and Sweetness

September 20, 2020
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone,

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began last Friday night. On Rosh Hashanah, people greet each other with “Shana tovah umetukah,” meaning “[have a] good and sweet year.” These hopes are universal, meant for people of all backgrounds.

We can all use more sweetness right now, as the world battles COVID-19, wildfires, resurgent racism, and social strife. On Rosh Hashanah, we symbolize hope for a sweet year with traditions like dipping apples in honey and enjoying delectables like this scrumptious honey cake, baked by my daughter, Francesca:





















Notice the difference between the wish for a “good year” as opposed to the “happy new year” we wish each other on January 1, amidst champagne, party hats, and wild revelry. By wishing for goodness, we convey hopes for life, health, peace, safety, and social harmony. We don’t wait for goodness to come to us; instead, we strive for it in our work to improve the world.

The wish for sweetness and goodness resonates with our professional lives. What can be sweeter than our vocation, particularly when we do it well? When we secure a diagnosis and offer treatment? When we soothe our patients in their most vulnerable moments? When we ease their pain and calm their fears? What can be sweeter?

As physicians, we devote our lives to goodness. We do it by learning and perfecting our craft, by engaging in research and seeking cures, by teaching, by serving our communities, and by committing ourselves to timeless virtues, like respect, honesty, humility, and compassion. Goodness is baked into our professional lives.

Another Rosh Hashanah custom is the round Challah, which, as many of you know, is a traditional (and delicious) Jewish bread, usually baked into a braided loaf. But on the new year, the Challah is round, which symbolizes our hope for goodness and sweetness without end, like this masterpiece baked by my daughter, Gabrielle:













So from my family to yours, to all our friends and colleagues, whatever your background, we wish you Shana tovah umetukah, a year of goodness and sweetness without end. Let us join together to make it so.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone,

Mark

PS: According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah is called a “tzaddik” or a person of great righteousness. No one epitomizes the tzaddik more than the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away last Friday night. If you have a moment, watch this magnificent tribute to her life and read her timeless speech, delivered in 2004, and her advice for living.

PPS: A classic Israeli folksong, Bashana Haba’a (Next Year). H/T to one of my best friends in the world, Hedy Wald.

PPPS: Another Rosh Hashanah tradition: our very own Hiam Naiditch (see attached), blowing the Shofar:

MDS

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on September 20, 2020