Tonight at sundown begins my favorite of the Jewish holidays: Rosh Ha Shana.
Even if you’re not Jewish like me, you might know that it’s the Jewish New Year.
Fall has always felt like the “new year” to me because of school starting, my birthday, and the Jewish holidays.
This year, the significance and symbolism of Rosh Ha Shana is particularly profound, as I feel like in so many ways I am turning over a new leaf.
Plus, I turn 29 on Thursday so it really is a new year in many ways. (The Jewish holidays don’t always coincide so closely with my birthday)
During the High Holidays, the ten days between Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur (our holiest day of the year, our “Day of Atonement”), we ask those we have offended or wronged during the year for forgiveness, hoping to be inscribed into God’s Book of Life for the coming year.
(Note to self: this year, among asking those who I’ve wronged, I will also be asking forgiveness of myself … pardoning myself for treating my body so badly at times, and for not looking at myself with the objective eye that I should. And I’ll also thank myself for taking the steps I have taken so far in order to love myself).
On the eve before Yom Kippur (called Kol Nidre) we fast from sundown-to-sundown. In simple terms, we put our bodily cravings on the back burner, so to speak — no food, no water, no sexual relations, bathing, etc so we can become truly one with God, without earthly distractions from that connection. At sundown, we break the fast, and another year begins.
I’ve been fortunate to have celebrated the High Holidays in Argentina, El Salvador, and Italy … and one thing that remains a common thread is the overwhelming sensation of belonging I feel during this time when I hear the ram’s horn (the shofar) blown, calling us to attention to hear God’s word.
The hymns may change, the sermon may change, and the tunes may change … but when I hear those notes blown from the shofar, I get chills up and down my spine.
And though I can be a stress-case most of the time, when I am in synogogue those couple days per year, I truly find peace and solace. The key is having it last …
Because I have so much going on at the moment, I hope to be as open as possible to listening and really absorbing those prayers and symbolism this year, to really “hear” the calling …
And on that note … one of the traditions of Rosh Ha Shana I’ve always loved is to dip apples in honey for a sweet new year. Whether you’re Jewish or not, I hope you’ll take a taste of this delicious combo … and I’d like to wish you, too, a sweet new year!