The air is cooler, softer. There are new starts, new school supplies, new shoes and haircuts (and backpacks and socks and hair accessories). “First day of second grade!” my social media accounts proclaim. The new season blows in the the new Jewish year. Lots of firsts.
Fall has always been my favorite season. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are approaching and with them the air whispers: “They’re coming…it’s time to start thinking and introspecting.” It’s both sobering and empowering to take a review of the past year and refresh our commitments for the new one.
How have I done this year? How am I different from the me I was a year ago? What have I learned? What would I do differently? Whom do I want to be in a year? What blessings do I want G-d to give me this year? Which of my prayers from last Rosh Hashanah have already been answered?
The honey chicken and round challahs are delicious and traditional, but they are not the point. The scary prayers Who shall live and who shall die are emotional and frightening, but they, too, are not really the main point.
What is the point?
If you are alive, if you are reading this, then the first point is gratitude for the past, because a year ago you were written down for life. You were granted another year, with which to do whatever you wished. This past year I ziplined in Vermont, helped start a new school, saw my son move out into his own place, traveled to Israel, tried and quit guitar, forgave myself for many things, cried, hugged, laughed and loved. So much blessing!
The second point is gratitude for this moment. That we have the gift of Rosh Hashanah, the gift to talk to G-d, Who only wants what’s best for us, to ask for all the things that are dear to our hearts, is enormous. This is our audience with Management to plea for health, for financial help, for clarity, for bravery. For the fortitude to handle difficult relationships and sometimes the strength to leave them. For forgiveness toward ourselves and others. For the eyes to appreciate all the blessings we already have. For mental stability and courage and honesty. For humbleness and strength of character. For nachas. For the ability to remember to tell people that we love them. That’s a gift. A gift from Judaism to you.
And maybe the third point is just joy. Joy that we have this holiday as a People that so many recognize as our special new national beginning. That we are excused from school, from meetings, from work, from life, even on a Monday and a Tuesday, to celebrate our New Year, because this holiday and this nation has been around for thousands of years and don’t plan on disappearing anytime soon. This pride, this national celebration, is exhilarating.
For gratitude and joy. For honey chicken and scary prayers. For Jewish pride and new beginnings. For reviewing my year and praying for my next. These are a few of my favorite things. Happy New Year, OOTOB readers. Shana Tova!