Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beyond the High Holidays

By Rabbi Baruch Price
Director, The Jewish Learning Experience
Teaneck, N.J.

Editor’s note: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year 5767) begins at sundown Monday (Oct. 4). Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) will begin at sundown Oct. 12.

According to our tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the creation of mankind. This indeed is a significant event deserving commemoration and perhaps even a little celebration (although a brief survey of the world around us leaves much doubt whether man’s creation is a cause for celebration). However, even a superficial glance at the way Jews observe Rosh Hashanah will leave an objective onlooker perplexed.

The day is joyous, but bears no resemblance at all to the raucous reveling that characterizes the secular New Year. There is a palpable mood of sobriety, perhaps even anxiety. Why does it have to be so serious? Why don’t we Jews just “chill” and enjoy the party? The secular New Year is the celebration of the recurrence of an arguably arbitrary date. Perhaps people are celebrating the fact that they have survived another year; perhaps they are celebrating the potential of the coming year; perhaps they have absolutely no idea why they are celebrating at all, but why not throw a party anyway?

There seems to be a universal, innate human need to mark time. We need a frame of reference by which we can measure and organize our lives. Rosh Hashanah furnishes this, just as New Year does, but it possesses a dimension that goes way beyond the pragmatism of providing a beginning and end point for our wall calendars.

Rosh Hashanah is not just a measure of passing time, but is the yardstick of our moral and spiritual development.

Read more of this article.

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