I’m a bit late on this, but better late than never. Happy New Year!
Now if for some reason you haven’t figured out that I’m jewish yet, this might confuse you. Probably as much as the random seeming numbers used for this blog title. Friends of mine who shall remain nameless will probably chide me at first for not making a title of just numbers be 1337. But you are wrong and silly headed people. And you know it.
No, 5772 is (now) the current year on the Jewish Calendar. Traditionally the year is counting from Genesis and the first Shabbat. No, I am not a creationist or anything like that, but I’m trying to explain some things here.
The Jewish Calendar is a lunar calendar, much like the arabic and the chinese calendar. We follow the cycle of the moon because to be honest back when people started measuring time, the moon and her movements and phases was really about the only constant that you could rely on. The sun never seemed to change, and even when the seasons shifted, it was difficult to really be precise. At least it was about 3,000 years ago for a bunch of desert nomads.
Why is the Jewish/Arabic/Chinese calendars all different lunar calendars? Well, I to be honest don’t know the answer to that. Save for the conjecture that they were all counting from different points as the beginning or the ending.
This is a blog about my thoughts, think not that you will find any concrete factoids here! If you are really that curious, go look it up! No, not on wikipedia. Use a real encyclopedia. You know, the book version. Some of us, if we’re lucky, actually grew up with some in our houses. But you can still find them at libraries. Alright fine, if you’re that desperate to know, go to wikipedia. Sheesh.
But now we’re getting distracted.
So yes, it is New Years, or was, and the proper way to celebrate Rosh hashanah (directly translated: Rosh=Head; Ha=The; Shanah=Year. Head of the Year) is with round and sweet things. A round Challah bread served with honey. Sliced up apples, served with honey. Pretty much anything round, and served with Honey. Now, with most things in Jewish traditions, there are symbols here. The round challah (and everything else round) symbolizes the year continuing. Life is an ever moving, ever continuous circle flowing seamlessly from one to the next. Apples, because in the Northern Hemisphere Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of Autumn, just when Apples are ripe and sweet. And honey, because, well don’t you want a sweet new year? Honey is nature’s perfect food. Sweet, liquid, and just wonderful. Why not enjoy it on everything in sight?
So what happens after New Years? Why the Days of Awe.
I’m not completely certain on the teachings around these 10 days, but I know what I was taught. These 10 days are for reflecting on your place in the material world. Rosh Hashanah is for celebrating that a new year has come, the Days of Awe are for setting yourself in order with regard to everybody around you. Find that person that you screamed at earlier and apologize to them. Set right all the wrongs that you’ve done in the last year, at least the ones that you remember, and that you can set right, within the next ten days. Get your material and temporal self straight so that come Yom Kippur, you are cleansed on the outside enough to face God and your inside.
Now we come to the big one. Yom Kippur. Holiest of Holy Days. Highest of Holidays (other than Shabbat, but that’s a completely different discussion).
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. This is the day that we jews go to synagogue and pray, while fasting, for forgiveness from God. We pray for the forgiveness of our own sins, and for the sins of others. We pray for forgiveness of the sins that we have committed against one another, and for the sins that we have committed against God. There is a prayer that is said during the night before (kol Nidre) that lists all of the sins that we are praying for, and then some the prayer is lovingly referred to as ‘Ashamnu’, as with all poems taking the first line as its title. You pray in Hebrew, and with each word, tap your right fist against your heart.
Yom Kippur is a solemn Holiday, the day for reflecting on yourself and the year that has passed, and looking forward to the year coming forward. It’s a reset button. The last year is over, you have repented, you have apologized, you have done your best to take back for the sins that you have done. It is time to start over again, to try and live your life better this year than you did the last. Sometimes, in all of the hype and talk about the holiday, that bit gets lost. A lot of people, and yes i’m guilty of this, talk about Yom Kippur and the fasting, the 24 hours of deprivation. But it’s also 24 hours of introspection, cleansing, and it can be both solemn and joyous.
But I’m getting into some other territory here that is better left for another time.
Suffice to say that it is a New Year and I have a new outlook on life. I will be tackling the world as though it is mine already. Ain’t nothing going to stop me now.