Tuesday 30th September 2008 (and the next day as well) is Jewish New Year’s day otherwise known as Rosh HaShanah.
Rosh HaShanah is held by tradition to be the final day of the six-day creation, on which humankind was created. In order to celebrate the official birthday of our species, we do a lot of praying and eating to reaffirm our acceptance God as sovereign over the world and our place as his underlings.
This is all in preparation for Yom Kippur (Thursday 9th October 2008) when we stand in judgement for what we did (or didn’t do) over the last year. As I said in a previous post, the whole drift of this period is to make us think at least once a year about where we are, where we’re going and what we need to do to improve ourselves. Judaism believes in total accountability so there is no passing the buck.
In English and the few European languages I am familiar with, people tend to wish each other a “happy new year”. In Hebrew you wish a Shanah Tovah – a “good year” or in full “LeShanah Tovah Tikatev YeTehatem” (“may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year”). This echoes the belief that on the basis of our past year’s performance, God decides what kind of year we are going to have in the next year. He doesn’t do this arbitrarily but aims the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Act 3, Hamlet, William Shakespeare) for best effect so that even one as dense as ourselves will understand where we are going wrong and where we need to improve.
As I said “total accountability” – this belief throws back to us responsibility for our seemingly random fate as well. We can change it (or at least sweeten it) by focussing, changing ourselves and improving.
So may you all have a great year – let’s make it one!