We borrowed our blog today from Rabbi Howard Siegel
Rosh Hashanah-the Jewish new year-is a celebration of the creation of the world. It is about celebrating our spiritual beginnings, and beginning, again, ourselves. On Rosh Hashanah, one pursues renewal through three separate acts-Tshuvah (repenting), Tefilla (prayer), and Tzedakah (gifts of money).
The word Tshuvah (repentance) literally means “returning.” Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin reminds us, “we are not stuck, our mistakes are not irreparable, we can turn and find a way out of the mess we made.” Before improving upon one’s shortcomings, one must recognize that, in fact, they exist. The first step in Tshuvah is admitting to moral and ethical failure. Rosh Hashanah compels the Jew to perform introspection; to confront behavior, both outwardly hurtful and self-destructive; to probe the depths of one’s consciousness for the painful acts buried deep within.
Rabbi Cardin notes, “Through acts of Tshuvah, we create patterns of a renewed self. Through acts of Tefilla (Prayer), we blend those patterns into an extended tapestry of self, God and community.” The prayers of Rosh Hashanah remind the Jew that our lives, and those of the community, are in the hands of God- “For we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are the sheep, and You are the shepherd. We are Your people, and You are our God.” Humankind is not the hub of the universe. Everything that happens is not all about “us”. The earth, and its bounty, do not exist for the sake of the human race. Through prayer, the Jew realigns his/her values and priorities for the coming year.
Finally, Judaism teaches that we are all fashioned “in the image of God.” Every human being has an innate right to dignity and a responsibility to treat others in the same manner. This means the “have nots” in society have a claim upon the “haves.” Tzedakah (acts of financial giving) is the way a Jew gives back to the world for the goodness they have been blessed with. Rabbi Cardin writes, “[Tzedakah] reminds us that our own fortune is tied to the fortunes of our fellow humans and to all Creation.”
When each individual commits him/herself to this three-fold act of renewal, he/she joins a growing community of people celebrating the creation of the world through actions that make this world a better place for all people.
May the coming Jewish new year inscribe and seal all of us for a year of happiness, health, and peace.
Rabbi Howard Siegel