Season of Repentance

Here is a personal reflection on Rosh Hashanah from Ami Farkas, a writer and photographer on staff in The Fellowship‘s Jerusalem office:

With each season of the year, we see changes all around us in nature. We have grown accustomed to these changes, and patterns have emerged in societies to correlate with them

The way we dress, our work habits, and even our food preferences follow seasonal cycles. This is reflected in the Jewish calendar.

In the spring, Jewish people celebrate Passover and our freedom. In summer, we mourn the destruction of the Temple in biblical times. Fall is a time of introspection and repentance in connection with the High Holy Days. And in the winter we celebrate our past victories on Hanukkah and Purim

Rosh Hashanah — which literally means “the head of the year” — is the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the High Holy Days

The name itself tells us how we are to enter the New Year. Utilizing our intellect, we make an accounting of the past year and prepare ourselves for the upcoming challenges and goals of the New Year.

The two days of the Rosh Hashanah holiday are spent mostly in prayer

The shofar, the ram’s horn blown repeatedly throughout prayer ceremonies on Rosh Hashanah, acts as a call to action, reminding us of our desire to be close to our Creator. Its blast also sounds like a cry, reflecting our yearning to be in sync with God’s plan

Interestingly, the Rosh Hashanah prayers are not filled with personal requests, and we do not ask for forgiveness for our misdeeds — that is done ten days later on Yom Kippur

Instead, we focus on God’s dominion over the world. When we enter the New Year, we first proclaim that the Creator is the ultimate ruler who controls all events that happen on a personal and global level throughout the year

On Rosh Hashanah, we are standing before the King, and as such, we have no words, no thoughts that should distract us from the recognition of the Master of the Universe

Our task as we enter a New Year is to first recognize God’s supreme authority. Only when we understand that we are not in control can we truly begin the process of introspection. This is the foundation of our relationship with God, and as we enter the New Year it helps us relate to our neighbors and ourselves

We work to achieve the realization that it is God who decides who will live, who will die, who will be awarded success, and who will not

Therefore we begin to see that everyone — from the rich and most successful to the poorest and downtrodden — is an equal partner in our ultimate work — which is to be close with our Creator and to heed His word. Shalom!

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