By Rabbi Richard Baroff | Guardians of the Torah
I fervently pray that the year 5777 will be a year of blessing and sweetness for you and your loved ones, for the Jews of Atlanta and around the world, for the people and state of Israel. I hope that the new year will be more peaceful and hopeful for the world than 5776.
The genius of the Jewish calendar has always been the possibility of renewal. Revitalization is built into the Jewish day as we begin with Modeh/Modah Ani (I give thanks). We thank G-d for renewing our life each morning as we awaken.
Each week, of course, we reflect on Shabbat about the miracle of creation and the rhythms of work and rest. The Sabbath is a profound idea. The seventh day is set aside for rest and reflection. It allows each of us to reset and replenish our spirits.
We also are reborn as a people each and every week. This is the miracle of Shabbat.
The idea of a Sabbath, which was scandalous to the Romans, became by modern times almost a universal custom. The Sabbath allows people to be fully human.
The rhythm of work and rest guaranteed by the workweek has been a great boon to humankind. It has been one of Judaism’s great gifts to the world.
By analogy, the seventh month, Tishri, is the sabbatical month. Rosh Hashanah occurs, from the point of view of the religious calendar, somewhat paradoxically not in the first month, but rather in the seventh. So the motif of Shabbat extends into the new year.
Each seventh year is also, again by analogy, a year of rest, when the ground in ancient Israel lies fallow. During the seventh year (Shemita) debts are forgiven. The sabbatical academic year is a remnant of this ancient practice.
Each new month (Rosh Chodesh) is also a time of renewal. The cycle of the moon has had a deep impact on human civilization, including Jewish religious life. We celebrate the new moon because we are grateful to G-d for the possibilities of renewed action inherent in the lunar cycle.
Rosh Hashanah is the most important of the new months and serves for us as a sort of archetype for Rosh Chodesh.
Renewal occurs daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. It also occurs in cycles larger than a year, even in 50-year cycles. The sounding of the shofar signals the new year, to be sure, but also spiritual replenishment on many levels. It is this rebirth of the spirit that has allowed our people to be so hopeful.
We at Guardians of the Torah pray that we all recognize that God’s gift of renewal allows all of us to be hopeful people despite the obstacles that we face in life. That more than anything else is the greatest gift of Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbi Richard Baroff is the leader of Guardians of the Torah.