Once in awhile a change in season coincides with an important holiday.
On September 23 autumn begins and at sundown, September 24, the start of the Jewish New Year begins. What parallels can we draw from this? Given we can feel the crispness in the air, the drop in temperature marking the start of autumn, I’ll begin by talking about the meaning of the Jewish New Year.
The holiday is known by different names – the most popular being Rosh Hashonah. It falls once a year and occurs ten days before Yom Kippur. Together, these two High Holidays in Hebrew mean The Days of Awe. Some believe it is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. Another way to think about it is as the birthday of the world.
The Jewish New Year holiday has many customs such as the sounding of the Shofar (rams horn), and the eating of apples with honey for a sweet new year.
It is also known as the Day of Judgement when three books are opened, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and the intermediate class are recorded. 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 these days Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs committed during the previous year.
Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving themselves and relationships during the coming year. It is a way of making peace in the community and striving to be a better person.
And 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 prayers for forgiveness.
When Rosh Hashanah arrives, we commit ourselves to a more intense bond with God and to redoubling our efforts in perfecting the world.
New season – new spiritual season
New beginnings and comparisons. Fall marks the end of summer, a time of change and both the new fall season and the holiday season create an opportunity to look ahead. We can either resist the change or embrace it and move forward.
As leaves fall or are finally discarded from branches we look ahead. We can consider what we hope for in the Jewish New Year as we pray for a better year ahead.
As trees become bare, our stomachs become empty on the fast day. It can be a time of depletion and replenishment ahead for the world.
As days become longer we wish for brighter days. The shedding of leaves is similar to a cleansing of our spiritual home. New seasons mark a new phase -a new season of life when we look internally to learn from our seasons.
Upon the new season, my wish for all, whether you celebrate the Jewish New Year or not is; may you and your families be inscribed and sealed for another year of life.
Shana tova tikateivu v’gmar chatima tova