2012-09-12 / Editorials

Jewish Ritual Looks Inward To Future

On Sept. 17 and 18, 2012, Jewish people around the world will celebrate the Jewish New Year, by frequent use of the words “rosh hashanah”. The words “rosh hashanah” does not mean “new year”, it literally means, in Hebrew, “the head of the year”. Those words, “rosh hashana”, accords meaning to the word “head” as the appendage that controls the body, and which contains the brain, the face, the sensory apparatuses. The head in many ways is us. We can live without an arm, but not without a head.

Many Jewish people will attend synagogue, and will connect to their religious life especially, on Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and ten days latter on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew. It falls in the month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. The Hebrew calendar begins with the month of Nissan (when it’s believed the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt), but the month of Tishrei is believed to be the month in which God created the world.

Rosh Hashanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei. Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days, God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. As a result, during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them), Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year.

This process of repentance is called teshuvah. Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year. In this way, Rosh Hashanah is all about making peace in the community and striving to be a better person.

Even though the theme of Rosh Hashanah is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope for the New Year. Jews believe that God is compassionate and just, and that God will accept their prayers for forgiveness.

How does Rosh Hashanah tie into everyday life? The answer would appear obvious. Even as we read these words, we seek answers. We look inward to find ways to review our own conduct and somehow give ourselves better paths to follow.

No one ever said this path would be easy, just, or simple. It is, however, part of the path we set out upon when we took our first breaths, made our first choices, realized our first dreams. We can only hope that our merciful and loving Supreme Being will take those steps alongside us and help to realize the paths we have to take.

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