Rosh Hashanah began on Wednesday evening at sundown. It is the Jewish New Year. L'Shanah Tovah, in Hebrew, means to a good year. Friends from my Hebrew class invited me for dinner on that evening; my friend said Kiddush and many other blessings and then we ate apples sweetened with honey. Honey dipped apples, a hope and prayer for a sweet new year.
Rabbi Dan, at the Synagogue where I study Hebrew, invited me to services during this very important Jewish season, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. The days in between Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe, or repentance. The Synagogue was packed, the Torah scroll covers in the ark had been changed to white, the cantor ready to go, and the service began.
The service began but really, the difficult work of repentance is just beginning. Three times the shofar sounded. "Tekiah", the Rabbi called and the shofar answered back, "Shervaim" and again, another sounding of the shofar. "Teruah" and the final sounds. The shofar has a way of calling you to attention that is quite different and visceral experience. How profound it was to hear the collective cries of a congregation for forgiveness.
For me it was a wake up call that said, hey, it's time to stop what you're doing. Think about this past year, my life and make some changes. Turn off the old path and walk down a new one. Repentance and cleansing of our soul is hard work. It's not only to acknowledge errors and ask forgiveness it is also, and more importantly, a time to amend those destructive ways, the ways that strike discord in life. Now is the time to turn toward God's commands and realign myself with the divine way. That's a pretty tall order. But what a sweet new year with all kinds of creative possibilities can unfold when repentance has been made
As a Christian, to live in Israel is to live not as a majority but a minority. My days and weeks will be ordered around a Jewish year, not the Christian year. I suspect that it will take some getting used to. It's an opportunity to widen my theological and cultural blinders that I've worn for years. I didn't intentionally plan my departure to Israel for this important time in the life and faith of Jewish people. It just sort of happened to turn out this way. But I can't help but think that God's providence played a big part in it. So for me, it is a new year, a new time and place, a new experience, a new way to give thanks to the God of Israel.
It's said that on Rosh Hashanah God opens the book of names and records all of our deeds during these days of awe. Then, on Yom Kippur just ten days from now that God will seal the book for another year. The blessing follows, May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.
May the peace of God be showered upon Israel and all of those who love her. May the year ahead in all of our lives be filled with grace and hope, goodness and health. L'Shanah Tovah.