Eliot Gelwan, one of my favorite bloggers, offers a nice contemplation of the Jewish new year. The equivalent time on the Christian calendar is usually Lent.
Since sundown last night, it has been year 5765 of the Jewish calendar. In Jewish tradition, that means 5765 years since the creation of the universe. Maybe this is inaccurate, but it emphasizes what order of magnitude we should place on each of our years anyway. It has always made sense to me to celebrate two new year’s days each year, one when the cyclical dimming of the days turns to the promise of renewal of the natural world at the winter solstice; and the other more aligned with the cycle of human activity, when the fallow time of late summer transitions into the renewed activity of the autumn, whether we are talking about the annual cycle of agricultural activity, of the school year or the world of commerce and the fiscal year.
The two types of new year’s celebrations also have a somewhat different emphasis. It has always seemed to me that the ritual of the Pagan New Year we celebrate in the winter, attuning oneself to the natural order of things, stands to invoke good fortune for the year to come. The Jewish New Year is more about setting oneself straight with manmade standards of right living, opening as it does the ten days of awe culminating in the Day of Atonement.
It is said that the life unexamined is the life unlived. This is a time to use in reflection on the year just past, in order to live the next fully. How much time was wasted? Were your days filled with life or dull routine? Was love expressed or left unsaid? Was there real companionship with those around you or a growing apart and a taking for granted? Were the kind deeds done or postponed? the gibes unleashed or the tongue held? Have you worked for peace and social justice as much as you could have? Did you acquire only things, or insights and knowledge as well? Have you freely asked for and granted forgiveness ? Did you deceive others? yourself?
Finding oneself wanting, as I do, in some or all of these regards helps in considering the uses to which one will put the year to come. What I do with my next year is important, because I will pay for it with a year of my life, and I hope I do not regret the price.
So, to all my readers Jewish and otherwise, a happy new year. I pray for assistance being kind to my fellow creatures and working for peace. I ask your forgiveness if I have wronged any of you reading this, and I absolve anyone of you who has wronged or offended me.