September 25th to 27th, 2022
01 and 02 Tishrei 5783
ROSH HASHANAH – Rabbi Tamara Schagas
Our people’s tradition is wise and generous. Every morning we bless in our prayers “the One whose goodness renews every day, continually, the work of creation.” At the end of every week, we remember our covenant with G-d during kiddush, the sanctification of time “zikaron l’maaseh Bereshit,” in memory of the act of creation. Each one of our festivals marks the completion of a cycle and calls us to a reflection on different values that exist in our lives. Every year we prepare ourselves, through the process of Cheshbon Nefesh, to leave the year that is coming to an end. This gives us the hope to start off the new year with hope, faith, and a renewed commitment.
Through its wisdom and generosity, our tradition teaches us that the creation is not yet complete, and that we, as part of that creation, are also immersed in the process of growth and change. It challenges us to live each day as if it were truly unique and as an opportunity to transform ourselves. We are G-d’s partners in creation and in the improvement of this world and of ourselves.
Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year.” It is also called Yom Harat Olam, “day of the creation of the world,” and Yom Hadin, “judgment day,” this last one being a central part of our liturgy, because we—as a people, as a community, and as individuals—present ourselves before G-d to be judged for our deeds over the past year. After that we are truly prepared to welcome the new year. It is our duty to look back, learn, acknowledge, value, give thanks, and also to make the commitment to make conscientious change.
The Hebrew word Shanah, “year,” shares the same root as the word shinui, “change.” Our world is always changing and to us, human beings, change can be a huge challenge. We feel comfortable amid what we are familiar with; the unknown overwhelms us, and it can be hard to find the courage to dream and to make an effort to make profound changes.
In the Torah the name of this feast is Yom Teruah, “the day of the sound of shofar,” this awakening we all need and that indicates the beginning of our preparation for Yom Kippur. The mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is hearing the voices of the shofar and our challenge is to distinguish between the different types of callings that come out of it and how they resonate within us. These sounds may evoke crying, sorrow, pain, for our faults and transgressions, as well as the pleadings of those who surround us. We all transgress, we all make mistakes, and together we acknowledge our imperfections. This is our opportunity to mend our ways.
This peculiarity of this time of year is coming together, trying to feel the energy of change. G-d is our Judge, but for the transgressions committed by human beings against their fellow human beings we are all perpetrators and judges.
During these days, may we find the strength to listen to all voices with empathy, compassion, and mercy, just as we plead to be heard by G-d. May we be worthy of forgiveness and generous in forgiving, too. May we see on each day of this new year a new opportunity to grow.
Shanah tovah umetukah