Shanah Tova from the IDF
Our celebration of Rosh Hashanah begins this year on Wednesday evening, September 24, 2015. This is a time of reflection, prayer and transformation. While it is customarily a time for “repentance,” the Hebrew term that is used for this process (teshuvah) reveals something much deeper than simply feeling sorry for the mistakes we have made in the past year. This is meant to be a transformational process as we engage in sincere self-reflection that goes beyond the recognition of mistakes to permanent changes in our lives and behavior. While teshuvah is ideally something we pay attention to year-round, the sages and rabbis who defined Jewish practice and tradition long ago recognized that we are after all human beings with strengths and weaknesses. This is one reason why a certain period of time in the Jewish calendar is set aside specifically for the purpose of personal growth and improvement.
Personal growth is often measured in terms of how we relate to others. Each year we are given the opportunity to consider how our behavior impacts on others and our community and how we can continually improve the quality of our relationships with others. We have the chance to actually repair those relationships which have been compromised by hurtful behavior. During this time period, the Jewish tradition teaches us to approach others face to face to engage in repairing our relationships and asking for another chance. This experience helps us to understand the idea of teshuvah –to learn from our past experiences so that we can make better choices in future encounters.
Rosh Hashanah includes several rituals that help us to focus on some of the most important concepts of the holiday season. Apples and honey are standard features at the Rosh Hashanah table to represent our wishes for a sweet new year, accompanied by the appropriate blessings. The shofar (ram’s horn) is one of the most important symbols of this season. The sharp and startling sound of the shofar is intended to wake us up; sharpen our focus; and help direct our process of teshuvah. Round challot remind us of the continuing cycle of the year and the cycle of life.