American Jews celebrate two New Years. On January 1 we take part in the festivities of the secular new year with champagne, fireworks and midnight parties. It is a time of joy, of having made it through another year, hopefully with our health and friends and family, and looking forward to another year with an optimism that, if it doesn’t last long, makes the holiday special.
The Jewish New Year that we celebrate each Fall is very different. Rosh Hashanah begins a period of reflection that lasts ten days through Yom Kippur. It is a time of introspection. Of reconsidering just what constitutes a truly good life. I am sure that each of us has a different sense of what a good life is.
This is a time to look closely at our financial and professional achievements. They play an integral part in our identities, our sense of personal accomplishment. Are we comfortable with them?
This is the moment to appreciate and to examine our relationships with friends and family. These connections are at the center of our lives. They are the cause of both our most difficult moments and our greatest feelings of joy and fulfillment. Nothing is more important. Can we make them even better?
This is the hour to consider our connections to our communities. We belong to different communities, large and small, each of them vital to our lives. Are we getting what we need from them and are we giving them what they need?
On January 1 we often make New Year’s resolutions, commonly over subjects like the discipline needed to lose weight, or reading books that we haven’t read, or playing better golf or tennis, or getting a new job or keeping our house clean. These are all important.
For the Jewish New Year resolutions are of a different nature.
We resolve to improve our relationships with our spouse, our partner, our children, our friends. We resolve to pursue a spiritual life, using that word in the broadest possible meaning, especially the mysteries of life and death.
We resolve to strengthen our community as Jews and our Jewish community, to live up to the ideals of what constitutes a good Jewish life. We may have different ideas about this but likely there is more agreement that they include a respect for life, a sense of common good, concern for both our local community and our greater community, and care and sustenance for our planet, for life on Earth.
For ten days we have an opportunity to think about nurturing our hopes and ideals, resolving to make our best effort that they become closer to reality.
Our Rosh Hashanah service begins this Friday at 7:30. The opening services are as always led by Norm and highlighted by a talk, a talk that is personal and yet has meaning for all of us. On Saturday morning at 10:00 Marilyn will lead us as we sound the shofar that wakens us to our depth, and take out our Torah, the symbol and mainstay of Judaism over the centuries. Norm will be our cantor assisted by Vance both vocally and at the keyboard. Noted historian Dan Carter will talk about his feelings toward Rosh Hashanah. Sharon, Judith, Vance and Anita will host traditional Onegs. Following the morning service, those who wish will join Harvey and cast their sins upon the water in a Tashlikh ceremony.
Services will be in person at Sacred Heart, and they will also be available through zoom. If you can, I urge you to come in person to as many services as possible. It’s inspiring to worship with each other. For those participating through zoom, we will send out a PDF of the prayer book which will allow you to follow the service. You will need a second device, a tablet, phone or computer as you will use one to read the prayer book and the other to view the service. It is not difficult. We are glad to welcome everyone, in person or on Zoom. We mean so much to each other.
On behalf of Norm, Harvey, Sandy, Betty, Andrea and the members of the Board of the Brevard Jewish Community I wish all of you a most fulfilling and joyous New Year, 5784.