Wednesday, September 8, 2010

L'shana Tova

Rosh Hashanah begins here in a few more hours, when the sun sets. It is the start of both the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays, which end ten days later at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

The High Holidays - the holiest days of the Jewish calendar - are a time of reflection and repentance.

Today is one of those brilliant, crisp, early fall days that holds all of the promise of the season. I find autumn to be the most invigorating time of the year and I thought about Rosh Hashanah as I walked home just now from an afternoon meeting. I always loved the fact that the Jewish New Year began in the fall, instead of in the dead of winter. When I actively practiced Judaism many years ago, I looked forward to this time of year - for the call to self-examination and reflection, true, but also for the visceral pleasure of exiting the synagogue on a crisp fall night and breathing in the newness and solemnity of the year being born.

Traditionally, honey and honey desserts are eaten at Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize the wish for a sweet year. Over the weekend, Warren and Elizabeth baked a honey-soaked baklava and there is still some left. Last night as the three of us shared the dessert, I mentioned to Elizabeth that, without intending to, she had managed to make a dish that was very appropriate for this time of year. By happenstance, I am meeting a Jewish friend for coffee tomorrow morning, and I will carry a piece of the baklava with me so that we both might taste the hope for a sweet year.

I have not written much about my spiritual beliefs in this blog. They change with time and I think I am in the middle of one such change right now. I know, though, that the qualities that drew me to Judaism over thirty years ago are still compelling. One of those is the emphasis on the individual to take moral responsibility for his or her actions, including making up for one's wrongs to others. An equally compelling concept is that of tikkun olam, or "repairing the world," a belief that each of us has a duty to make the world a better place. Along with the inspiration of my grandmother, my belief in tikkun olam has probably shaped my community work as much as anything.

The day is winding down. The new year awaits.

L'shana tova (a good year).

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