This Rosh Hashanah will be different than all others.
Whether it be where (or if) we attend services, what we say, who we are with to celebrate (or who we’re not with), the holiday will not resemble what we usually expect. This begs the question: What really makes Rosh Hashanah? What really matters?
In Jewish law, Rosh Hashanah is dependent on the date. If it’s 1 Tishrei, it’s Rosh Hashnah. That’s all that matters. There are certain rules and observances for the day, but Rosh Hashanah is a function of the calendar.
If we dig a little more deeply, at the heart of Rosh Hashanah is that it marks the beginning of a new year. As such, it is a time to reflect upon how we want the New Year to be better than the last. This year, that is pretty darn easy.
In preparing for this year’s High Holidays, I kept thinking about all that is missing. It’s true that there is a lot I’ll miss this year. At the same time, we are the ones who decide what makes Rosh Hashanah in to the celebration of the New Year. We can choose to focus on what we want the holiday to look like and notice what’s missing, or we can decide that we will focus on turning this Rosh Hashanah into an amazing inauguration of what, please God, will be an incredible year.
So what really matters? Family, health, security, Torah, God…the list goes on, and each of us has our own.
I think there are a few items that have been found to matter most to people that make good goals for the coming year.
Rabbi Marc Angel, in a High Holiday message, discusses this season as ideal for searching for clarity. He quotes some of the findings of Professor Raymond Moody, who has written extensively about near death experiences. Whether you believe in the concept or not, Moody has found common elements in the experiences of his subjects. They all tended to reach two conclusions:
One must love others
One should learn as much as possible
I think following these two essentials will put us on the path to appreciating what really matters most. It’s simple (and alliterative: love and learn! Our love for family friends, and plain, ordinary people along with a quest for knowledge (Jewish, general, all types) can provide us with the proper perspective to tackle whatever comes our way.
May the best of 5780 be the starting point for 5781.