This is a pre-written, scheduled Rosh Hashanah post. This Rosh Hashanah I’ll be doing a series of posts on the past, present, and future. Today’s post is about the past. I’ll be back in the (virtual) flesh on Sunday night.
Whenever Rosh Hashanah arrives, I can’t help but think of my father whose birthday often landed on the Jewish High Holidays and who boycotted all services with rabbis. One of the last Rosh Hashanahs of his life I spent with him instead of at services. I think I was better for having done it.
For those who don’t know what Jews do on Rosh Hashanah, it is a prescribed, formal structured event that last two days. Rosh Hashanah starts tonight with evening services and a large festive meal. Services have a prescribed format and are the same from year-to-year. For more information on what they contain, this is a good summary.
Services are lengthy. Starting the first full day we will go all day (with breaks) followed by a festive meal each night. It is the beginning of our year and begins our process of evaluating what we did, where we fell short, and what are our plans to do better. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we have a chance to redeem ourselves by making amends for the sins we have committed against others and repenting for the sins against God.
Several times in the service we say, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.” It is a repeating motif and it brings an image of a large accounting book, a list of every person and their deeds, their debts and credits to the universe.
Tonight I think about the past, about my father in particular, and how disputes were reconciled around the Rosh Hashanah table. Often they were not. The arguers pounded the table and declaimed for their side.
But we all ate dinner together. We all offered love and goodness. We all shared the apples and honey and fervent hopes for a sweet new year for all mankind. At the end of dinner, my father pressed food into the hands of everyone who would take it so that they would have deliciousness extending through the holiday and beyond.
We are living through a difficult period, both because our Earth is warming, bringing disaster upon disaster to people we care about, and because people are losing their faith in each other. We must do what we can on both counts.
The area we will find the quickest reward is in opening our hearts to those around us, helping those who suffer, and truly forgiving those who come and ask forgiveness from us. Generosity of spirit, empathy, and kindness will help us make it through this together.
I am taking a page from my father’s book of generosity and making sure that I keep people fed this Erev Rosh Hashanah by donating money to the Direct Relief, which specializes in providing medical, food, and other forms of aid to people who need emergency relief. There is a great deal of need and I know that faced with hungry people, my father would feed them.
I am praying for a sweet year for all of my friends. May you be blessed with life, love, creativity, and joy.
Be well, friends.