Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

Many of us are not used to hearing those words except at the beginning of January, but there are some cultures who celebrate the changing of our calendar years at different times. Some of these are the Chinese New Year which corresponds to the Lunar months; the Islamic New Year beginning on the first day of the first month in the Islamic calendar beginning in late Autumn; the Thai New Year is a springtime celebration; the Ethiopian New Year is a spring celebration which comes after the “big Rains”; and the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur in the fall. The December 31st and January 1 New Year’s celebration is based on the Gregorian 12-month calendar.

Although each of these merriments may be celebrated in unique ways, they all represent a new beginning. Before January 1st in America many of us make a list of resolutions, things we want to do in the coming year to improve ourselves. Those of us who celebrate Rosh Hashanah ask for forgiveness from those we may have unintentionally hurt, forgive those who hurt us, and we promise to do better in the future; the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the ten days of repentance or the ten days of return. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to celebrate more than one new beginning every “year”, but how many of us truly realize how special an opportunity we are given.

There are several greetings we use for Rosh Hashana, my favorite two are Shanah Tovah Umetukah (wishing you a good and sweet new year) and L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu (may you be inscribed in the book of life). Those who are lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends often share feasts of good food and sweet delicacies to hopefully signify a good and sweet year. We say blessings over wine or grape juice thanking G-d for giving us the fruit of the vine, and we dip pieces of round challah (bread) and apples in honey thanking HIM for the fruit of the earth and sweetness. We use round uncut challahs instead of the usual twisted versions to symbolize the cycle of life. We listen to the sound of the Ram’s Horn (the Shofar), light candles and read from parts of the Torah as we are commanded to do by G-d. It is often believed that the Shofar arouses us to examine our deeds and renew our relationship with G-d.

 The time between the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish holidays always begin the evening before at sunset) and the end of Yom Kippur allows us time to reflect on our deeds. No one, not even G-d, expects us to be perfect, but we are always expected to strive to do better. These ten days allows us the time to examine our deeds, to be repentant for our misdeeds, intended or not, and allows us to find the peace within us to forgive those who have dealt unfair blows in our lives. The “Book of Life” opens on Rosh Hashanah, this “book” contains pages for each of us and G-d examines what has been written by our “own hands” (our own deeds). G-d judges and decides, by the time the book is closed on Yom Kippur, “who will live and who will die”. Despite the gravity of the words in our prayers, this is really not a frightening time, rather it is a time in which we find peace and self-awareness. We promise to do better, it is not the promise that is weighed by G-d but the sincerity in which we mean it.

Whatever time you may use for self-reflection and whatever belief system you subscribe to, the time you have to truly look inside yourself, to make peace with others and to plan how you can live a happier and better life is a precious thing indeed.

May your new year be sweet with hope
and new possibilities.
Wherever you go...blessings. Wherever you
Wherever you are...peace. L'Shanah Tovah

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