It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, our time for renewal and reflection. And I need this, badly. I’ve been struggling with things I’ve held on to for too long, and this New Year, I am ready to let go. This year was hard for me personally, and now I am faced with a new year full of changes, and challenges and I don’t want to head into it with the clutter and negativity that loomed over me this year.
For religious Jews, it is the end of the year, the end of this chapter in our lives. For many people, it is a chance to look back at the year and reflect on what was good, what could have gone better, and how we must strive to improve ourselves for the next point in our lives.
What is Rosh Hashanah?
Just like the calendar New Year, Rosh Hashanah is the time when we reflect on the year behind us and the year to come. This holiday is all about looking inward and facing some personal judgment and seek redemption.
I struggled this year with a pack of “Mean Girls” in my life. I can see as I reflect where things went wrong, to be honest, I can see that I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be included in this popular neighborhood group. What I couldn’t understand was that this group challenged my personal and moral beliefs, engaging in behaviors that not only were destructive but made me uncomfortable. When I went against the queen bee, I was set off on a new challenge, one of standing solidly in my beliefs and not acting out in anger.
It was hard. I wanted to shout, and I wanted to fight back. But there is no redemption in petty behavior, only more damage. I lost many “friends” this year, just to face this Rosh Hashanah with new clear eyes of who I want to be, who really matter to me, and the truth that it’s okay to let go and move on.
Rosh Hashanah shows us another way to see our year, as moments and opportunities to let go and move forward with a clear heart. I love the realization that all of us are only here for a short time. We don’t’ have time to sit in regret or soak in anger. These High Holy days recognize that we each have a special light, we just have to stay focused on being part of the light when our days feel crazy and dark.
It’s the 48 hours where we get to reboot our spiritual lives and get a clean start.
The Day of Teshuvah (Repentance) and Forgiveness
One of the critical parts of Rosh Hashanah is making amends. We all have done something that we need to fix, seeking forgiveness, or let go. It is said that throughout the Ten Days of Awe – Jews are required to ask forgiveness. Perhaps you know you need to face a family member and talk about what happened or just apologize for taking out the frustration we have felt in our lives on the people we love.
It is also about seeking forgiveness from G*D. I love this personal conversation between me and G*D, it’s a reminder that the relationship that I want to have with my religion is truly up to me. This conversation about forgiveness in my life comes both ways. I also have to let go of anger when I feel like G*D didn’t help me in the ways I believed would help. How many times have you felt disappointed in your prayers? For me, it happens often and it is hard to stay solid in a faith that you feel doesn’t return the affections.
When is Rosh Hashanah?
Due to the Jewish calendar being based on the lunar cycle, Rosh Hashanah (“Head of the Year”) falls on the first and second days of Tishri, and is the first of ten days called the Jewish High Holy Days. It is commonly referred to as the Jewish New Year, where we examine our own lives and deeds.
In 2018 it began Sunday, Sept. 9, and ends on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 11.
What do you do?
Like many fall celebrations, Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of G*d’s creation of the world, and the efforts that we have made throughout the year that are all coming together.
Many Jews take this time and attend a synagogue. At services, a shofar ( a hollowed-out ram’s horn) is blown. It is a call to announce the time for reflection is here. Our family, as well as others, take part in a tradition called tashlich, it means “casting off” in Hebrew. We gather at a nearby river or lake and throw pieces of bread, which signifies the washing away of sin and things that have weighed us down. It also feels like it is taking the sad and frustrating parts of our year and letting them float away and be eaten by the fishes.
Rosh Hashanah meals usually are full of the bounty of the year’s garden. We also include apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. We also serve round challah (a sweet braided bread) symbolizing the circle of life.
More importantly, it is a time to bring everyone together, friends and family, and sit and talk and enjoy the bounty of love that you have cultivated through this year.
Why Rosh Hashanah is essential to me
I love this moment that we are asked to stop for a few days and think clearly about our lives and who we are. We work so hard, and it is hard to see the rewards that are actually right in front of us without that reflection. It is this soul-searching that allows us to see the adverse actions and influences in our lives, and strive to do better.
We have this window of time that we can dig in deep and search for the meaning in our lives and come out clean from the dirt that we all have been part of in some way.
Today we remember that who we ARE isn’t the accumulation of wealth, the number of social media followers, or even your physical body. Who we are is made up of the efforts we made to make a difference, the efforts we made to make this a better world for everyone.
No matter your color, your age, your gender, your religion, we all have a part to play. Don’t let your part be the role of harboring negativity or contributing to the hate. I know I have some time I need to spend dealing with the hurt I’ve felt. It’s hard letting go, but it’s time.