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What Would We Do Without Rosh Hashanah?

What Would We Do Without Rosh Hashanah?

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Rosh Hashanah is more than just a holiday; it is Judgment Day. That’s why the traditional greeting at this time is not “happy holiday,”or even“good yom tov”orchag sameach,” but rather “shanah tovah” or, in Yiddish, “ah gut yohr” (“good year”). The heavenly court will be deciding our destiny and determining our fate for the new year, so our wish forWhat if there were no season dedicated to self-appraisal and assessment? each other is that these days of reckoning go well, and that we each be blessed with only good things for the new year.

And this is precisely what makes our New Year observances distinctively different from those of so many others around the world. For Jews, New Year’s Day is joyous but sombre. No late night partying for us. No drunken revelry as the clock strikes midnight. Actually, I’ve often wondered whether New Year’s Eve partygoers are just having a harmless, fun night out, or if there is some kind of subconscious drowning of sorrows in drink as they mourn the passage of another year and all its unfulfilled dreams.

And I’ve also often wondered what we Jews would do without Rosh Hashanah. This is the season of cheshbon hanefesh (spiritual stocktaking), when we take inventory of our most personal, intimate moments. We reflect on the year gone by, our successes and our shortcomings. We consider and reconsider our relationships with G‑d and with other people. We try to pinpoint our failings so that we may correct them for an improved year to come. We make amends with those we may have hurt in the year gone by. We put an end to the petty grudges and faribels (grievances) of life, and look forward to a better, happier, more serene and peaceful future.

But what if we didn’t have Rosh Hashanah? What if there were no season dedicated to self-appraisal and assessment? Would we create it on our own? And if not, would we ever emerge from the rut we work ourselves into over a long, hard year? I imagine that we would just continue along the same tedious treadmill of life until something drastic arrived out of the blue to jolt us from our lethargy.

Without Rosh Hashanah, would we ever stop to consider whether the way we are living is the way we really want to live? Would we ever pause and become introspective enough to rethink life’s game plan? More than likely, we would just keep running the rat race and, as some wise person once observed, “In the rat race, even if you win you’re still a rat!”

Rosh Hashanah is a time when we are compelled to sit up and take notice, to put the brakes on the mediocre merry-go-round and shout, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” These Days of Awe compel us to think about life, about ourselves, aboutWould we ever stop to consider if we're really living the way we want to live? our families, relationships and our way of life. And if necessary, to do a re-think. It gives us the chance for at least an annual “compass reading” to establish our sense of direction so that, if necessary, we can alter our course and reroute ourselves. How does the voice inside our GPS put it? “Recalculating.” Most of us do need to recalculate from time to time.

So if we didn’t have this once-a-year challenge and opportunity for personal introspection, what are the chances we would actually sit down and do it of our own volition? Probably very small indeed. Well, thank G‑d we do have Rosh Hashanah. And the time for stocktaking is now. Or, as the legendary Hillel put it in Ethics of the Fathers, “If not now, when then?”

In our chaotic, often mad, world we ought to appreciate and embrace this wonderful opportunity. Honestly and truly, what would we do without Rosh Hashanah?

I wish my readers, our community—and indeed the world—a shanah tovah. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous, safe, secure and spiritually rewarding new year.

Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association, and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. His book From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading was recently published by Ktav, and is available at Jewish bookshops or online.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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arnold Gerstein Sturgis, Mi September 30, 2016

If not for Rosh Hashanh Would we take the chance, the opportunity for Heshbon Hanefesh
without Rosh Hashanah. The choice is always ours. Because if we rely upon one day or season to do deep reflection about what is in our face and is being revealed, we are not taking this one day as a serious and joyful commitment and just relying upon a this period of time to do it in because it is expected and indoctrinated. Reply

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