Unlike all the other Jewish Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish New Year, is not linked to the remembrance of national liberation or to the commemoration of a national tragedy. In fact, Rosh Hashanah does not focus on the experience of the Jewish people in history at all. Rather it serves as a lens to examine central universalist themes of Jewish belief and values, such as mortality, change, and meaning, Unlike other holidays, Rosh Hashanah is associated with a mythological moment in time – the creation of the cosmos. The Machzor — prayerbook – for Rosh Hashanah returns to this image again and again with the words Hayom harat Olam – Today is the birthday of the world. This is not a story about Jews but a story about humanity. In its most salient formulation, the creation of one world, presupposes one God, and one humanity, which implies that all people are brothers and sisters. This theme of the unification of all life is again replayed on Yom Kippur – (some would say At-one-ment) – again our religious mythos has the One God sitting in judgment of all of humanity, and each person is judged not by the color of their skin or by their creed or ethnicity, but by their actions.
There are many blessings appropriate for this season of the year, blessings for health and prosperity among others, and we wish for them all. There is however one blessing particular apt for this time of year: the Blessing of Shalom. Most of us know that Shalom in Hebrew means hello and goodbye , meanings derived from Shalom’s more basic translation as “peace.” But Shalom has an even more basic meaning: Shalom means wholeness, completeness, harmony, serenity, and the absence of friction, agitation and discord. Shalom means having everything in its right place ( for example there is no need to work on the Sabbath as everything is already just right.). Shalom means an acceptance of everything that arises just as it is with no need to grasp on to it and no need to change it or fix it. Our sages say that Shalom is the greatest of blessings; it is also the most elusive. At a time when our world is in turmoil we can ask to be blessed with shalom on two levels: first, may we know wholeness of mind, body and spirit and reveille in the serenity and harmony that rises from such peace. May we learn not just to pray for peace but to embody peace in our whole selves. Second, may we open our hearts ever-wider to all peoples of the earth who are in struggle and experiencing violence and disease. May they too come to a place of harmony and wholeness where the thought of raising arms against another would be unthinkable.
May the One who makes peace throughout the cosmos make peace for each of us in ourselves, make peace for the People of Israel, and make peace for all peoples of the Earth. And may we be blessed with a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.
ROSH HASHANAH RESOURCES:
- Holiday Information – Learn more about the High Holy Days.
- Recipes - Celebrate the New Year with a delicious Honey Almond Cake or Kale & Pomegranate Salad!