The High Holidays are just about here! On Sunday night, Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, “The Festival of Trumpets,” most commonly known as the Jewish New Year.
In Israel, you can feel the excitement. Public buses and trains flash signs wishing riders a Happy New Year. Traditional holiday foods, like new exotic fruit and sweet honey products, are on display at the supermarkets. The sound of the shofar, the trumpet fashioned from a ram’s horn that is an important part of Jewish observance and worship, can be heard in synagogues around the country in preparation for the holy days.
According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah, there is an energy – accessible to all of God’s children – of renewal and possibility. Judaism maintains that Rosh Hashanah marks the birthday of humankind, originally the 6th day of creation. On that day, God “formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). On that first Rosh Hashanah, God blew the breath of life into Adam, and on this day every year God breathes new life into the world.
In the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, we say “May the old year and its curses be gone and may the new year and its blessings begin.” We sweep out the old and make room for the new. The Jewish sages taught that when the shofar is blown on the holiday, human air enters the ram’s horn and God’s breath emerges from the other end sending new life into the world. God breathes new life into each of us, bringing to life parts of us we never accessed before.
As I approach my first Rosh Hashanah without my father, my feelings are bittersweet. This past year brought the greatest and most painful challenge of my life – losing my mentor, my confidant, and parent, all in one.
Still, this year brought unimagined blessings as well. I received more support, love, and assistance from our Fellowship family than I ever thought possible. This year saw me assume the reins of The Fellowship, which has allowed me to keep my father’s legacy alive. I am so grateful for the success that we have seen since I stepped into my father’s large shoes, and now I look up to God as I look forward to the future.
The New Year signals a time of new possibilities for all of us. We are not bound by our past mistakes nor our prior experiences. The world is not bound by historical patterns, missteps, or failings. Everything is new again and susceptible to change. Our job is to embrace this newness and to be open to God’s new blessings.
On this Rosh Hashanah, we serve God by crowning Him as King and believing that with Him, all things are possible. With this spirit, I invite you to join me in praying for a new year in which we can reach new heights, both individually and as a global community, and a year in which the holy work of The Fellowship can grow beyond any limits. Happy New Year my friends! May you bless and be blessed in the blessed year to come.
With blessings from the Holy Land,
High Holy Days Holidays IFCJ Rosh Hashanah The Fellowship Yael Eckstein