For all religions, there is a time of introspection during the year. Christians have Lent, the period leading up to Easter. Muslims have Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. For the Jewish community, it is the Days of Awe. Judaism follows a lunar calendar, and the date for the holiday shifts each year. This year, it began on Wednesday evening, Sept. 4.
The holiday of Rosh Hashanah, or Head/Beginning of the Year, begins these 10 days of introspection. It is not quite like the secular New Year, but similar. The Days of Awe close out with Yom Kippur, where Jews in every corner of the globe fast and repent for their sins. This year, it was observed last Friday-Saturday.
Even as we gather together in our local synagogues and homes, we recognize a unity with our people across the globe, in every nation, reciting many of the same prayers, both in our native language and in Hebrew.
Even as we gather together as a community, there are many moments when we are alone with our God, during this time. It is a time of assessment of how our past has been lived, and choices that we have made in the past year, both good and perhaps not-so-good. It is a time of self-questioning and thought on how to contribute to the overall betterment of the world.
The sins for which a Jew repents on Yom Kippur are sins outlined in our ancient prayers, and also modern. They are sins against God and all members of the community. In the case of transgressions against our fellow man, it is outlined that those must be reconciled during this time, with that individual, and the wrong hopefully corrected. Many Jews also choose to fast as a way to atone, at large, for forgiveness.
At this time of year, Jews are more reflective than expressive. In general, the Jewish New Year is not a time to celebrate as if it were Dec. 31. There are no fireworks set off, nor any parades. It is more a day filled with reflection upon personal improvement, than celebration of accomplishments. There are holiday traditions observed, however and many Jews feel excitement for the customs shared only this time during the year. Those customs include eating apples dipped in honey, as tokens for a sweet New Year, and hearing the blowing of the Shofar. The Shofar is a ram’s horn, blown in historical times to gather people together, is sounded to announce the New Year. It is synonymous with Rosh Hashanah.
For many Jews, at this time, we pause to listen to the breathing quiet, of a year closing out to the voices and memories that are passing. We turn inward and ask ourselves:
Did we do all we set out to do this year?
Did we reach out to the people we meant to?
Did we do more than just surviving as we spun in a circle around the sun?
L’shana Tova, Happy New Year!
Edie Yakutis is with Temple Solel in Fort Mill