Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year, is the first two days of the Days of Awe, which end on the tenth day with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. I’ve always liked Rosh Hashanah and what it stands for. So much so, that I actually enjoy the two and a half hour temple service. And I even stay awake, which is more than I can say for a lot of other devout temple-goers.
On Rosh Hashanah you can celebrate the completion of another year. I think there’s safety in racking up the years, sort of like seniority here on Earth, or spiritual tenure. You can also hope that the year to come will be just as sweet, if not sweeter than the one that just ended. Then you have the next eight days to contemplate how to make that sweetness happen.
It’s a bit like a job review, where your boss gives you the criticism sandwich, except God is the boss and you as the assistant get to give this review to yourself. (If you haven’t noticed, God is a little busy right now.)
For instance, you might start by acknowledging that you volunteered more of your time in the past year than in years before. But maybe you didn’t manage your money well, or you weren’t as patient with your teenagers as you wanted to be. You did, however, assert yourself and found new work opportunities that will allow you to pay off some debt. Now that wasn’t so bad, right?
During the Jewish new year, there’s no making of last minute idealistic resolutions that seem sensible only after you’ve had your own bottle of champagne. The ten days give you the time to reflect and analyze where you were an asset in your life, and where you were a liability, then try improve on that.
The ultimate goal is to get your name sealed in the book of life for another year on Yom Kippur. I don’t think God’s goal was to just kill off all the sinners. I think God would prefer us to mend our ways, learn from our mistakes and be better people. You know, heal the world, leave our mark here on the planet.
So for me, it’s a pretty deep holiday where I can contemplate where I’m headed, and what I want to accomplish. What weaknesses need to be strengthened? What fears need to be addressed? How can I take better care of myself so I can then take better care of my family and others?
It’s a blessing to be given the chance to learn from our mistakes and be encouraged to correct them. Second chances in life are rare, I’ll take the ones I can get.