For some today will be a day to recover from a hangover. Too much celebration bringing in the New Year results in headaches and perhaps aches in other areas of the body and no remembrance of how they might have gotten there. Others will awake with a sense of dread and foreboding. Last year was difficult and this year is unknown. What terrible things may await? Still others view this as a fresh start. New opportunities are just around the corner, new relationships will be built, old ones will grow stronger, the career may take exciting new turns and great things are expected. The reactions to the turn of the clock from one year to the next are as varied as people. The timing of this blog is fortuitous being that it actually falls on New Year’s Day and I thought I might bring another perspective from another culture into the mix. Jewish people operate by a different cultural calendar for their religious celebrations and their New Year is called Rosh Hashanah and is more than a simple turning of the calendar from one year to the next by the tick of the clock but had spiritual significance. The focus is on God and one’s relationship to Him. It is a time of introspection and reflection. During the preceding month:
The Yamim Noraim are preceded by the month of Elul, during which Jews are supposed to begin a self-examination and repentance, a process that culminates in the ten days of the Yamim Noraim known as beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with the holiday of Yom Kippur.
New Year’s day is then observed as a religious celebration which includes:
Rosh Hashanah has a number of additions to the regular service, most notably an extended repetition of the Amidahprayer for both Shacharit and Mussaf. The Shofar is blown during Mussaf at several intervals. Biblical verses are recited at each point. According to the Mishnah, 10 verses (each) are said regarding kingship, remembrance, and the shofar itself, each accompanied by the blowing of the shofar. A variety of piyyutim, medieval penitential prayers, are recited regarding themes of repentance. The Alenu prayer is recited during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah.
During the day one prays near natural flowing water which symbolizes having their sins carried away. They may also cast bread on to the water as symbolically casting away their sin. A good part of the day is spent in celebration of Who God is and what He has done in the past and will do in their lives.
As I have prepared for this New Year’s Day I realized, perhaps for the first time, a spiritual significance to the day. I was lost in sin with no way to cast it away on my own. The Christmas celebration a week ago is a remembrance of the day when God became man. God the Son incarnated as a new born babe in a manger in a politically insignificant and conquered nation 2,000 years ago. He did that to live a perfect life that I cannot live and gave His life as a perfect sacrifice in order to redeem all who believe. It is a time to reflect on the great cost of my sin paid for by the life of The Son and a time of celebration for my sin was not carried away by running water, bread cast upon the water, or the blood of bulls and goats but by the blood of His dear Son. It is a sacrifice that keeps on giving for as the Apostle Paul wrote:
…for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
Call on Him today and really start the year off right.