A FEW THOUGHTS ON YOM TERUAH,
the Day of the Trumpet,
commonly known as Rosh Hashanah
Though many think of Rosh Hashana as the ‘day of judgment’ or simply the Jewish New Year, I’d like to suggest that we look a bit deeper. Yes, there is certainly truth in those two concepts but they can also be misunderstood and misapplied.
The very word ‘judgment’ makes people uncomfortable. We don’t like to be judged by a boss, a teacher, or anyone for that matter. Yet ‘judgment’ in the context of love is a beautiful thing. For example, the concern that parents show about their children’s activities, friends, and tendencies is often interpreted by the children as ‘judgment’ when in fact it is the parents’ love for their children that motivate their watchfulness and when necessary, their intervention. To be honest, one of the most devastating things a parent can do to a child is not to ‘judge’ them. Why? Because a parent who isn’t interested in what their child is doing is sending a message that says clearly—“I don’t care about you,” the most destructive message a child can perceive.
On Rosh Hashanah, when we say that God “sits in judgment” what we are saying is that God loves us: He cares about each and every one of us, He cares about who we are, how we live, and whether or not we are moving forward in fulfilling the destiny that is uniquely ours and for which He put us on this earth. That the King of the universe actually cares about “little ‘ol me” is a remarkably empowering and life-giving idea. Rosh Hashana is about how much you mean to Avinu Malchenu, our Father, our God.
Rosh Hashanah is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of the first human being, Adam. God could have launched humanity with a family, a village or a whole planet filled with people: why did He begin with just one person? Jewish thinking is that God began with one person to teach us about the fantastic potential inherent in each individual. You and I have the ability to impact our entire world; we are capable of making a world of difference. Therefore, as we approach the dawning of this year, 5777, we ask ourselves: As “How can I contribute, even in a small way, to making the world a better place?” “What can I do to make a difference in someone else’s life?”
Think of it this way: Every Rosh Hashanah is a vote of confidence from God in your individual, personal potential. It is also a fresh opportunity to unlock more and more of your personal God-given gift.
On this feast, we ask God to “Remember us for life” and “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” When we greet one another we say “May you have a good year, and may you be written and sealed for a year of good life and peace.”
While the face value meaning is that we should enjoy a long life on this earth, there is a deeper meaning as well. A person can be alive, strong, and healthy yet be “dead” in their soul at the same time. A life lived in the boots of a Nazi, or under the flag of ISIS is a life utterly drained of all meaning.
Certain choices that we make, and certain courses of action that we pursue have the ability to infuse life with “life.” Other choices drain out the life of everything God intended for us. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only ask for physical life, but more importantly we are asking that our spiritual life be enhanced; that with God’s help in the new year, we will make the kinds of choices that reflect His giftings in us and His purpose for creating us in the first place: to be a living reflection of Who He is. When the shofar is blown and its sound echoes across the world, may we hear the call of God to holiness, righteousness and peace.
My prayer for all of us is that the year 5777 will be a year of unparalleled spiritual growth in our personal lives and in our communities.
Shana Tova v’ Metuka – May you have a good and sweet year!