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Thoughts On Rosh Hashanah

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts. You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall present the Lord’s offering by fire.
Leviticus 23:24-25

I started to wish my Jewish friend “Happy New Year!”, and “Happy Rosh Hashanah!” but then thought different. Instead, I wished him a prayerful, reflective Jewish New year. And he agreed! “Ah yes, I want to be prayerful and reflective for bringing in the New Year.”

Today is September 26 on our Gregorian Calendar, but the “Head” or “First” (Hebrew: Rosh) on the Hebrew civil calendar. On this day the Hebrew religious calendar intersects their civil calendar, making this the holiest of days. Today begins the “Days of Awe”, a period of ten days of prayerful reflection and repentance that will culminate on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

In Bible times Rosh Hoshana was solemnized with the blowing of the shophar trumpet, not just in Jerusalem, but in every town and village throughout Israel. The trumpet blast was calling the people to give thanks for God’s blessings in the past year and to holy living in the coming one.  

As I see my Jewish friends observing Rosh Hoshana, I am devoting these first days of Autumn to my own prayerful remembrance of God’s many blessings and promises for the future. As the Bible’s creation story tells us, God purposefully placed the sun and moon “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). So, I am paying attention to days passing and seasons changing. I hear my own trumpet shofar calling me to holy living.             

Today, I am helped in my autumnal reflection by Quaker writer Parker Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak. Parker reflects on a deeper meaning of leaves turning and light declining:

“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays towards winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? It scatters the seeds that will bring growth in the spring – and scatters them with amazing abandon…This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette of if nature had not done it first?”

Declining light, longer nights, and leaves falling remind us that our daily dyings hold God’s sure promise of new and wondrous life!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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