Jews all over the world will once again gather in their synagogues and homes, alongside family, friends, and congregants, to observe the Jewish New Year, or Rosh HaShanah.
This year Rosh HaShanah falls on Monday evening, Sept. 6, at nightfall, and continues on through Sept. 7. As always, the Jewish year begins at the start of the month Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar which has long been associated Judaically as the “birthday of the world.”
All during the preceding month of Elul there is the excitement of anticipation of yet another new beginning, another recognition of having come full circle – in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death – and in having survived to this point.
Always identified with the holiday itself is the sounding of the ram’s horn, the shofar, in the synagogue. The distinctive sounds (or calls) are dramatic reminders of our call to conscience. Among the most popular traditions are the eating of apples & honey (for a sweet new year); a round braided loaf of bread, challah (reminder of the full circle of life); the sending of New Year greeting cards; a festive dinner meal with time-honored blessings; and the greeting of one’s friends and family with the phrase, L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.”
The Jewish New Year celebrates the season as a great festival of thanksgiving to God for all of our many blessings. Rosh HaShanah also has a serious side, as it calls Jews to begin to reflect back on their past successes and failures, as well as those who matter most – family and friends. We are also called upon to memorialize those who have died during the past 12 months, and to consider all those in dire circumstances.
Historically, our liturgy has emphasized the fate of the Jewish people. We reflect upon how we as Jews have journeyed from ancient times to this very day. Jews are called upon to give voice to our covenant with God and to the way of life it demands – that is, our responsibilities to the world and to pledge to make this earth a better place for one and all. This year the High Holy Days come with prayers of hope.
We ask God to give us knowledge and discernment; for together, we can defeat the Covid virus, and resume a more normal life. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are moments of renewal, as this New Year of 5752 once again begins the eternal cycle. May God protect us one and all.