“Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.’” — Leviticus 23:24
At sundown on Friday, Sept. 18, my family will join Jews around the world in celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. My devotions this week focus on this very holy day, a time when our attention is on repentance and starting afresh.
A few years ago, my father, Fellowship founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and I were in Chicago for important year-end meetings. After a long day, I was looking forward to getting home as quickly and warmly as possible. However, when I looked outside, I saw that it was snowing heavily, and I was not happy about it.
My father, however, was smiling. “Yael!” he said. “We might as well enjoy it! If we have to go out in the snow anyway, we may as well make the best of it!” And that’s exactly what we did. My father and I laughed and played in the snow like two small children.
Now, I look back on that moment as a cherished memory made possible by the very snow I had resented. My father’s guidance to see the good in every situation and choose a positive reaction to any circumstance changed what could have been a negative experience into one of wonder and magic.
As we begin the Jewish New Year, I am going to take this attitude with me.
The Jewish New Year, referred to as The Festival of Trumpets in the Bible, is more commonly called Rosh Hashanah. Rosh, means “head,” while Hashanah, means “the year,” so Rosh Hashanah literally means “The Head of the Year.” The Jewish sages taught that just as the head determines where and how the rest of our body will go, so too, does the beginning of the year determine how the rest of our year will proceed.
Moreover, Judaism has a saying: “Our first thoughts decide the end results.” This means that it’s the thoughts we have at the beginning of something — a new year, a new job, a new relationship — that have the greatest impact on how that new thing will ultimately unfold. When we think thoughts, it’s like we are planting seeds. What we sow is what we will grow, and ultimately what we will reap.
As the new year begins for Jews around the word at sundown on Friday, my “first thoughts” are that this year is blessed; I will choose to see the good in every person and every situation that I encounter. No matter what this year brings, I will do as my father said and make the most of every precious moment. I invite you to do the same!
What thoughts will you sow for the coming months and year?