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  • Writer's picturerabbijonathanf

A New Me For The New Year

When we think of a New Year celebration, what comes to mind are parties, champagne, and a midnight toast to the coming year. The Jewish calendar also has a New Year’s celebration, however, we observe it very differently. Yes, we know about the apples and honey, synagogue services, and shofar which are all beautiful and inspiring customs, however the purpose of the day goes well beyond that. We view Jewish holidays in general and Rosh Hashanah in particular as an opportunity for personal growth. In order to appreciate the potential of the specific holiday we need to get to understand the essence of the day.

The Jewish holidays commemorate events of the past, and Rosh Hashanah in particular celebrates the creation of the world. However, it goes deeper than remembering an historical occurrence. The Slonamer Rebbe in his powerful work, the Nesivos Shalom says we believe that during each Jewish holiday we re-experience the event of that day, because the characteristics of that event are infused into that day of the calendar. Each year we have the potential to access that energy and use it to transform ourselves. On Passover we say in the Haggadah, ‘It is incumbent upon us to see ourselves as if we left Egypt.’ We are meant to go through our own personal freedom each year.

So what are we meant to be re-experiencing on Rosh Hashanah? The Jewish New Year commemorates the creation of the world, and so each year the world is ‘re-created”; and we as individuals are re-created as well. This means we are given an enhanced opportunity at this time of year to re-envison ourselves. The Nesivos Shalom says that we are capable of transforming ourselves by fulfilling the purpose for which the Almighty created us and brought us into this world. In more contemporary language, we would ask ourselves am I fulfilling my own unique function that the Almighty has given me? Teshuva, the vehicle for repentance and change that we are meant to go through for the holidays, is not just about trying to identify our mistakes and make good on them, it is also the process of seeing what we could be accomplishing and have not yet done. This applies to our personality traits; for example, am I being as empathetic, understanding, and giving as I could be with those who I am close to? Is there more I could be doing in my community to help others? Am I using my G-d given abilities to make the world a better place and to help the Jewish people in our mission to uplift the world?

Three years ago we contemplated what it meant to re-consider all the options in our lives, and moving to Israel was at the top of the list. Because we allowed ourselves to open up to a new vision of our lives, we were able to even consider such a bold move. On Rosh Hashanah the sky is the limit. See it as a personal potential brainstorming session, opening up new vistas in our lives. We let’s try to go beyond having a day off for recreation, and let’s try and make this Rosh Hashanah a day of ‘re-creation’.

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