Opinion: Rosh Hashanah — Not Just a New Year

Opinion: Rosh Hashanah — Not Just a New Year


Rabbi Leibel Fajnland

High Holiday Services Schedule

In anticipation of the upcoming Jewish New Year, Chabad of Reston-Herndon has announced its High Holiday Services schedule.

For information on Chabad's open to the community services for Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 20-22) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 29-30), as well as to reserve, visit http://www.chabad...">www.chabadrh.org.

Membership is not required to join. All are welcome, regardless of background or affiliation. We do ask for you to make a reservation however so that seating can be assured.

The services will be user-friendly, with a Hebrew-English Prayer Book (Machzor) making it enjoyable and meaningful for both the seasoned and the unversed. The services will be traditional, yet thoroughly contemporary, interspersed with traditional and modern Jewish tunes, English readings and a running commentary led by Rabbi Fajnland.

In addition, a special children's program will accompany the adult services.

For more information on the above event, call Rabbi Leibel Fajnland at 703-476-1829 , visit http://www.chabad...">www.chabadrh.org , or write to Rabbi@chabadrh.org.

Rosh Hashanah is not just the Jewish New Year. It is the first step in a month long process of self-discovery, a month which guides us towards a deeper place within ourselves, our universe, and our Creator.

What is Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is a reality check.

Instinctively, we are wrapped up in what we need, what we want, where we need to go and what we need to do. Not in a bad way necessarily, but life — when left to its own devices — is me, me, me. We need to work with that. Life is supposed to be about our responsibilities — the responsibilities we have to ourselves, and to our loves ones.

But ultimately, life is a gift, and it is granted for a reason: To lead a meaningful life, and strive towards a higher purpose than simply fulfilling our own needs and wants. And that ought to be our North Star.

This is not to suggest that we do not partake of the world, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Yet simultaneously we must ask ourselves why? How? Are our motives purposeful? Am I divorced from the world around me?

Rosh Hashanah is about setting our self-image, our desires, our neuroses and our various gravitational pulls to the side, and affirming that we will endeavor in this new year to lead a more meaningful life, even when it is uncomfortable.

That is Rosh Hashanah. But that is only the beginning.

Real commitment is not an easy thing. Genuine, full-bodied commitment doesn’t come from a simple conversation with oneself. Rosh Hashanah begins a 10-day process of trying to find authentic connectedness, a genuine bond, with those around us, and ultimately with the Divine. Day by day, we peel away layer after layer of our own ego and self-interest.

Until the 10th day: Yom Kippur.

At that point, we’re ready for Oneness. We set aside our physical needs — our food and drink — and we zero in on the core of our lives, the central point of our existence and the North Star by which we will find a life of meaning.

We connect. For real.

Once we have done that, Sukkot — the Festival of Tabernacles, the next holiday of the month — is a natural consequence. We can resume life. But it is done within a simple wooden hut under the wide open sky called a Sukkah. Surrounded by its flimsy walls and leafy roof, we are enveloped in a divine cosmic embrace. At one with the vulnerability around us. Not ensconced away from it. Aware of our responsibility to repair our broken world.

So now you have the Tishrei journey, the spiritual path of this month. And perhaps we never needed it more urgently than now.

The call of the Shofar nudges us toward finding an authentic sense of bonding with something loftier and greater than us.

With best wishes for a Happy New Year for the Jewish calendar year of 5778.