Let the trumpet sound!
This evening, September 15, begins the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. According to the Hebrew calendar, it is the year 5765. In the ancient Near East, the sunset is considered the beginning of the new day. The modern Gregorian calendars will note September 16 as Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah takes place in the ancient Hebrew month of Tishrei, the seventh month, to which the Gregorian calendar corresponds with mid-September to mid-October. Interestingly, this is the season of Autumn, not Spring. For many cultures, the New Year is in the Spring, at the seemingly more appropriate season of rebirth. The Persian calendar, for instance, celebrates NoRooz, marking the solar year which begins some time during March or April. So why would the ancient Hebrew calendar begin the new year at the season when leaves begin to fall?
The Jewish holiday proports to commemorate Creation itself, on an annual basis. Thoughts are directed to the Giver of Life, the Creator, and the holiday involves renewal of ones essential spiritual relationship with the Almighty. Of course, Sabbath itself is the weekly commemoration of Creation (Gen.2:2-4; Ex. 20:8-11), but there is also the special marking of the new year in Torah (Lev. 23:23), the first day of the seventh month.
Tishrei, then is not the first month of the Hebrew calendar. Instead, the first month is Nisan/Abib, in which Passover (Pesach) takes place, and that in fact is in the Spring. The tenth day of Nisan/Abib (Exodus 13:3,4) is the day the children of Israel came out of Egypt. This begins at the new moon. Passover is the birth of Israel as a nation. Rosh Hashanah is the birth of the world.
Lest the non-Jewish mind become confused, however, with the numerous calendars of use in the world, historically and even today, it should be recognized that the point of Jewish holidays has always been spirituality, and that is something invited in all and offered to all, every Sabbath day (Saturday). Sabbath is the true basis on which to build an understanding of all the other holidays.
Holidays are relatively somber, but for a reason: the greatest joy is achieved through self-understanding, and not revelling and abandon. Lasting inner peace and strength are not evolved through jubilance alone, but through deep searching of heart, and complete commitment to life’s grandest values.
It is a stunning moment, to be in a Jewish synagogue during the High Holidays. I recommend it for everyone. The Jewish prayer books are profound in their address to the human heart. We should all make such an effort. Renewal of the soul is not so costly as prolonged self-deception. Better to face the music, the shofar, (the ram’s horn, the trumpet call), than to hide in goodly Babylonish garments. Better to be honest with oneself, than to constantly trying to impress others.
Leshana tova tikateiv v’techateim. Leshana tova tikateivi vetichatemi. And a healthy gut yoar to all.