A Different Kind of New Year's Observance
September 20, 2011
Dear Friend of Israel,
Next Wednesday, September 28th at sundown, Jews begin the observance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In sharp distinction to the secular New Year, Rosh Hashanah is not characterized by frivolity. Rather, it is a holy day on which the Jewish people recognize God's dominion over the world. Jewish tradition teaches that, beginning on Rosh Hashanah, God judges the entire world and all its inhabitants, determining their fate for the year to come.
Jewish Sages teach that our fates are "written" as God judges the world on Rosh Hashanah, and "sealed" 10 days later on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. The period in between the two holy days is known as the 10 Days of Repentance, during which our reflection and penitence intensifies. We know that we are judged by our actions during the course of the whole year, but just as one would be that much more careful while sitting in a courtroom in front of the presiding judge, we know that now is our last chance to make good before the King of Kings.
And, of course, this spirit of humility and repentance is to follow us throughout the year, throughout our lives. The High Holy Days are when we have the most power to transform ourselves and channel our abilities and resources to serve God.
Our Holy Days are filled with awe — and deep trust in a God Who is a merciful and beneficent Father, Who desires our repentance, and Who is eager to grant forgiveness. He is calling us to return to Him. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel, "But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die… Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:21-23).
Whether you are Christian or Jewish, may these days bring you the bounty of God's blessing. May the spirit of generosity and loving kindness that you have consistently shown to the people of Israel be noted in the heavenly record. May we all be inscribed and sealed for good.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Chairman, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada