Rosh Ha-Shanah Evening


SEPTEMBER 13, 2015

“Space:  the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Its continuing mission:  to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” 

Do you recognize these words?  This is the opening narration to the series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  Spoken by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (actor Patrick Stewart), these words, slightly altered from the original “Star Trek” series, set the tone for the episode which is to follow.  “The Next Generation” is set in the 24th century, approximately 100 years later than the original series.

There are often “marathons” of “Star Trek:  The Next Generation” on television and sometimes I find myself sitting through several episodes.  Recently I viewed an episode that I didn’t recall seeing before:  It is called “Time Squared” and it was the thirteenth episode of the second season of “The Next Generation.”  It originally aired on April 3, 1989.

In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a shuttlecraft drifting in space.  After receiving no response to its hails, the Enterprise uses its tractor beam to bring the shuttlecraft into the ship.  Crew members are surprised to find that the shuttlecraft has the same name and registry as one of the Enterprise’s own shuttlecrafts!   They are even more surprised when they open the shuttlecraft’s door and they find an almost-dead double of Captain Picard aboard!

After the double of Captain Picard is brought to sickbay for treatment, it is discovered that the shuttlecraft’s internal clock is about six hours ahead of the Enterprise’s own chronometer.  The crew’s officers meet with Captain Picard to determine what their course of action should be.  Captain Picard tells his officers that “[we must] prepare for our rendezvous with ourselves.” 

Captain Picard then goes to sickbay to interrogate his future self:  “What went wrong?” he asks the other Picard.  “You know, don’t you?  What did you do?  What happened?  Why did you leave the ship?  Don’t turn away.  Look at me!  Picard, look at me!”  Picard can’t answer Picard; as time goes on the future Picard becomes more aware and coherent, but he still cannot communicate with the original Picard.  Eventually Captain Picard determines that he must do the opposite of what the double did in order to save his ship since whatever the double did ended poorly, with the double Picard as the only survivor from his ship. 

The Picard from the future attempts to leave the Enterprise, but the other Picard cannot allow him to do so:  “Captain Picard!” he yells to his double.  “I cannot allow you to leave.  Before we can go forward, the cycle must end.”  Captain Picard then kills the other Captain Picard and everyone aboard the Enterprise is saved.

As I viewed this episode, I was struck by Captain Picard’s admonition to “prepare for our rendezvous with ourselves.”  To rendezvous, of course, means to meet or assemble at a certain time and place.  It seems to me that this Rosh HaShanah holy day is exactly that: our annual rendezvous.  Every year we assemble at this time:  the first day of Tishrei.  Every year we assemble at this place:  our synagogue.  We rendezvous with our congregational family as well as our individual selves at this time of year.  We begin anew.  What a wonderful opportunity we are given each year!

Captain Picard told his crew to prepare over the next several hours to rendezvous with themselves.  So, too, do we prepare for our rendezvous, only we have more than a few hours to get ourselves ready.  We have an entire month, the month of Elul, the month leading up to these holiest of days, to prepare ourselves.  And if we haven’t done the necessary work of reviewing last year during the month of Elul, we have this wonderful gift of the next ten days, these Days of Awe, in which to do so.

If we went astray in some way last year, we decide how to do better this year.  We resolve not to repeat our mistakes, or as Captain Picard noted, “before we can go forward, the cycle must end.”  We must put a stop to whatever made us do the wrong thing in the past and then move forward into the future.

I pray that as we rendezvous with ourselves at the beginning of this new year that 5776 will be a good year for each of you and for our world.  Or, as they say on “Star Trek”:  Live long and prosper!