One of the names for the Jewish new Year, is the “birthday of the world”. It is two days that Jews choose to celebrate, every year, by collectively attending synagogue services and having festive meals, starting with apples dipped in honey to symbolize hope for a sweet new year.
As we look around the world, this Rosh Hashana 5773/2012, the Middle East is in turmoil. Riots in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and the burning of the American flag have replaced the deadly assaults in Syria on the front pages of our newspapers. Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon program and continuing its genocidal threats against Israel, although its real target is the World, and the end goal is Arab/Muslim Hegemony.
Africa is in turmoil. Asia has its share of dictatorships and oppressed peoples. The United States is poised for an election in the midst of an economic crisis that affects all of us.
And yet Jews all over the world are getting ready to celebrate the Jewish New Year, the Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the 5773th year in the Jewish calender.
A birthday is the birthing anew of our world. Everything seems possible at the beginning of the year. The Torah portions that we read highlight these ideas.
On the first day of Rosh Hashana, we read about Sarah, the wife of Abraham being told she will have a child at the age of 100. Genesis 21:1–34; And the next day we read about G-d asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Genesis 22:1–24
In the additional readings, (the Haftorot) for the two days, we learn on the first day (Samuel 1:1-2:10) about Hanna, who was barren, praying so hard for a son that the priest, Eli thinks she is drunk, and the birth of Samuel. (Reminding us of the long and event filled life of the Prophet Samuel, recounted in the two prophetic books, Samuel I, and Samuel II.) On the second day we read the words of (Jeremiah, 31:1) prophesying about G-d’s eternal love for His people and His promised ingathering of the exiles, bringing all Jews back to Israel – the promised land.
Life is fragile and, as adults, we all know that we are never completely in charge of our fates. On Rosh Hashanah, during synagogue services, Jews meditate on this fact, by sharing the liturgy of this day, some in grand operatic style, and some with muted prayer. We all pray, that G-d in partnership with man, will bring us safely to the best options through the coming year. We pray to be blessed with life, health, abundance and happiness, all the while recognizing the fragility of life, and the joy of having one more day to fulfill our hopes and dreams.
This is aptly recognized by Rabbi Steinmetz in his brief Rosh Hashanah talk: Life has no “Easy Button.”
Shana Tova. Here is praying for a fruitful year of wisdom, good health, and abundance for all of us.