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Shana Tova (Happy New Year)

September 18, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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Shana tova from Bridges for Peace!

Friday, 18 September 2020 | Sunset this evening ushers in Rosh HaShanah, which in Hebrew means “head of the year” and marks the beginning of the year 5781 on the Jewish calendar.

Although Israel recognizes the Gregorian calendar, the biblical festivals and holidays are determined by the calendar we read about in the Scriptures. Rosh HaShanah is no different. The two-day feast is celebrated on the first and second day of the seventh month, the month of Tishrei.

Rosh HaShanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets or Yom HaTeruah (the Day of the Blowing.) The reason for these names is found in God’s instructions regarding this feast in Leviticus 23:23–24, Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.”’”

Today, thousands of years later, the children of Israel remain true to God’s instructions. On Rosh HaShanah, the echo of the shofar, or ram’s horn, is heard throughout the land of Israel. Sounding the shofar issues a clarion call for the season and signifies the peoples’ recognition of the Kingship of God.

There is, however, an added significance to Rosh HaShanah. The festival signals the start of the holiest time of the year on the Jewish calendar.

“The 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are called the 10 Days of Awe,” explains Rebecca Brimmer, international president and CEO of Bridges for Peace. “These 10 days are a time of introspection, a time of searching your soul, a time to make everything right between you and God, as well as your fellow man.”

Rosh HaShanah is traditionally celebrated as the Jewish New Year. We find the reason in the Mishnah, which is the first written recording of Jewish tradition, Brimmer points out. “The first of Tishrei is the beginning of the year as regards [the calculation of] years, of the shmitah cycle (seventh year of allowing the earth to rest), the yovel (Jublilee) cycle, for planting [trees] and for produce” (Rosh HaShanah 1:1).

Author and Rabbi Arthur Waskow clarifies further: “This is then the new year for learning how a human being can turn toward God. Perhaps it is the head of the year because the head is raised toward heaven, away from the earth—while Pesach (Passover) celebrates the more earthly liberation, the freedom of our bodies [from slavery in Egypt].”

New Year’s Day celebrations on December 31 in the secular West are often marked by lavish parties and merriment. The Hebrew New Year is different. The atmosphere of Rosh HaShanah is one of reverence and devotion, described by some as “subdued joyousness.”

“As I hear the sounds of the shofar at Rosh HaShanah, I reflect on these thoughts and feel at one with the Jewish people,” Brimmer says. “I find myself examining my heart to see if there is anything I need to correct. Are there relationships that need mending? What is God speaking to me about? What do I need to concentrate on to become the woman that God has planned me to be?”

As with all Jewish festivals, Rosh HaShanah is usually a large family affair, an occasion for quality time spent with loved ones. This year’s festival, however, will be different. This afternoon, Israel enters its second national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus infections. This means loved ones are prohibited from spending the festival together and that each core family will sit down to the Rosh HaShanah dinner in their own home.

For a typical Rosh HaShanah feast, tables are laden with an abundance of food, signifying the hope for fruitfulness and prosperity in the year to come. There are apples dipped in honey to symbolize the desire for a sweet new year. Fish, cooked with its head still attached to suggest the head of the year, is often served as the main dish. Round foods are also a firm favorite at all festival tables to represent the cycle of the year.

From Jerusalem—the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people, from the city of our God and the city of the great King (Ps. 48:1–2)—Bridges for Peace wishes you and your family chag sameach (a happy holiday) in the same way that loved ones in Israel greet one another on Rosh HaShana: “L’shanah tovah tichatevu” (May you be inscribed for a good year.)

Posted on September 18, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 18, 2020)

Photo Credit: Henry Strauss/bridgesforpeace.com