Our Torah states that on Rosh HaShanah we are to mark ‘a sacred occasion’ (Lev 23:24). Our commentators will define Rosh HaShanah as a ‘day of remembrance.’ The Talmud will note that this is one of many new beginnings we celebrate amid the year. Our sages will also refer to the holiday as a ‘day of judgement.’
So which is it?
In truth, Rosh HaShanah is all of the above. It’s a time for community, a time for prayer, a time to remember the many we have loved and lost as well as a time to stand before our God and consider our choices of the past year. Rosh HaShanah has us ‘feel all the feels,’ as the kids say. It is a day of emotion, nostalgia, inspiration, introspection and renewal.
New beginnings matter in Judaism. We mark time definitively and intentionally. We note the end of every week with Shabbat. We celebrate the start of a new month with Rosh Chodesh. We mark the start of adulthood with Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Confirmation has us acknowledge our teens’ independence and maturity. These milestone moments remind us that we are alive and progressing through life with greater wisdom, greater experience and greater moral clarity. By marking the passage of time, we are also highlighting the idea that our time on this earth matters and should be celebrated, used for the good and treasured.
The truth is that we need these high holy days, this year especially. These days can be so frustrating and stressful. Life is often so hard these days. The news is often totally deflating. There is conflict everywhere we look. Our natural world is in disarray: floods, wildfires, hurricanes and rising temperatures all the time. Politics in Israel and here in the U.S. can be downright maddening.
We need a time to re-connect with our innermost selves. We need the space to reflect, breathe deep and remember what matters. Starting with Selichot, on Saturday night September 9, I hope you will join us for this special season. You are part of this congregational family. Your voice brings so much to who we are.
I pray that the coming year brings peace and tranquility to our broken world. I pray that this year, 5784, brings health and joy to us, our loved ones and those around the world.