Ah….you think I’m a bit early. Others are counting down the shopping days left before Christmas (I know YOU don’t get thinking about it until December 20) and here I am saying Happy New Year. What gives?
Well, it’s one of those religious things. This evening started the Jewish year 5775. Rosh Hashana translates to “head of the year” and it begins the ten days of awe. This is a solemn and serious time. It is a chance for introspection and self analysis. It is the time to think through the events and choices of the past year, to think through the results of your decisions….or lack of them.
It is also the time to get right, not only with the Lord, but with the people in your life. You know, the ones you hurt either by doing or saying something that was unwise or chosen for dumb reasons, and the ones you hurt by NOT saying something wise or not doing something helpful.
It is, essentially, time for confession. A time for penitence. Only then can you have absolution. Or not. See, in the practice of the Jewish faith ACTS are more important than words. Especially empty words read because they are in a prayer book but read without your heart involved.
I used to tease my nonJewish friends I would share a secret with them, and I’ll do that right now with you. It is traditional to think that on this day God opens the Book of Life. In this monster book are pages and pages and pages, one for each person now or ever living. On YOUR page are written all your hopes and dreams, all your deeds (good and bad) and God’s plan for you.
These next ten days, until Yom Kippur ends with the first star on the night of October 4, each of us can petition God to inscribe in the Book a good plan for the coming year. But you have to earn it. These ten days gives you time to put some thought into who you have been and who you want to be. To think about about your relationships with people, both dear and near, and the ones you pass everyday in your life without knowing their names. To honor that there is a Higher Power, something much bigger than you.
Tomorrow afternoon there is traditionally an action called Tashlik. It is the ritualistic and symbolic action of casting off sins. Traditionally done at a moving body of water, bread is ripped into small pieces, each symbolizing a sin or problem in the past year. The bread is then thrown on to the waters to flow out to the sea or, more realistically, to be eaten by the fish and ducks. I was not brought up very religious so I can not tell you the prayers and what they mean. I can just tell you that if you think through this past year, and go through it slowly, truly thinking of the things you know did not work well and what your role was in causing that to turn out that way, you will be well on your way to a better year next year.
L’shanah Tova…..and may you be inscribed for a good year!