How do we measure the start of the New Year when time doesn’t seem to move?

As we begin to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, we think about the New Year and what it will bring. We think about what we want to improve upon in the future as individuals, and how we would like to grow and evolve. Under normal circumstances, we can use milestones throughout the year to track our growth and measure our evolution. But what happens, when those milestones seem to be different or on a perpetual pause? How do we sanctify time when each passing day seems to bleed into the next?

In 1968 Joni Mitchell introduced the world to the song, “The Circle Game,” describing the passage of time through the life of a young boy. The chorus famously sings:

And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We’re captive on the carousel of time

We can’t return we can only look behind

From where we came

And go round and round and round

In the circle game.

If we are captive on a carousel of time, how can we learn to embrace the moment we are in, rather than looking forward to where we long to be? Just 5 short months ago, we celebrated the holiday of Passover, largely interpreted as the celebration of our covenant with God as a nation. We collectively found a way to celebrate as a community through carefully planned virtual interactions and lowered expectations. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we prepare to celebrate our covenant with God as an individual. If we are willing to truly look at ourselves, will we like what we see? Hopefully this pause in time has forced us to change, and if not, perhaps that’s a good goal to work toward in the New Year.

I believe the beauty of Rosh Hashanah, as symbolically seen through the round challahs we bless before meals, is that there is no clear cut start and stop for self-improvement. Going in circles allows us to continuously participate in our life’s trajectory and course correct without ever getting off the ride. If we allow ourselves to look back and learn, we can simultaneously look forward and enjoy riding on the painted ponies as they go up and down through this unique experience we call life.

May you have a sweet and happy New Year in good health!

Shana Jacobs
Director of Engagement and Jewish Learning