Rosh Hashana – The Red Line

By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf


I was visiting Israel a number of years ago, at a time when the country faced a critical issue. The level of the Kinneret, Israel’s primary source of drinking water, had fallen dangerously below the official “Red Line”. This fact indicated that urgent measures had to be taken.

An emergency session was called in Knesset, and experts presented the sobering information along with their predictions of disastrous effects. A lively discussion ensued, as the Knesset members searched for a solution to the problem. Perhaps drinking water should be brought in from Turkey?

Finally, the lawmakers reached a conclusion: The Red Line would be lowered! This way, there was no issue. The problem was solved!

Ludicrous as this sounds, how often do we do the same thing? We all have red lines in our lives, moral boundaries and standards that we have established for ourselves. Yet circumstances may conspire to challenge our firm commitments. And often, we might fall into the trap of “lowering our red line” to avoid the discomfort and ease our conscience. We shrug off our failures and lapses with “It could be worse…”

But there are times when we can no longer fool ourselves – like when it is time to meet with the accountant. Seeing the numbers black on white (or red on white), reviewing and comparing financial charts, we are forced to face our situation honestly. It is time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t, how we ended up where we did, and what must be done to improve the situation.

Such a time is Rosh Hashana. On this awesome day, we give an accounting of the past year. We stand before the King of Kings, and everything is transparent. Thus, as we prepare for Rosh Hashana, we take stock of our actions. We start examining the books. And the question is not, “Why weren’t you as successful as Bill Gates this year?” Rather, we must ask ourselves, “Have I lived up to my goals? Have I fulfilled my potential? Have I been true to my inner self?”

And if the answers are less than satisfying, it is a time to come with a plan. A real plan. A plan that will allow us to reach high above our red lines.

May we all have an inspirational High Holiday experience, and may we begin a year of blessings, growth, success and happiness.


Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at

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