Our Voices (HaKolot Shelanu)

Thoughts on the Holidays

from Ellen Sanders, CBI President

For a teacher – even a retired teacher – the year always starts in September (in the northern hemisphere, anyway). If you’re a teacher, you get your schedule, set up your classroom, and organize your plans for those first months of the school year. Families return from those August family vacations.

I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, but still have that mindset! Vacation time is over; the time for learning begins. In the non-academic world, the new year begins January first, New Year Day. Resolutions are made. Parties happen. Even fireworks get set off some places. When you think about it, though, both versions of the new year are just artificial constructs. I get why they exist, however, and they’re both equally valid, really.

In the Jewish world, of course, the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) is the New Year. There are no parties or fireworks, there’s no new schedule, new students, etc. Here we are, in the beginning of autumn, talking about a new year. Why doesn’t it happen in the spring, the season for planting and renewal?

I’ve been doing a little reading about that question (fall=learning, right?), and one thing in particular that I read resonated with me. It said that, in the fall – the end of the harvest – we know whether our prayers were answered. Will there be enough to take us through the winter and into the spring?

During the High Holidays we start a new period in our lives, an important one – a period of introspection, of re-assessment. It’s a thoughtful, rather than joyous, time. I look at the fall Holidays as an opportunity to re-connect with my Judaism. The fact that we say the same prayers and follow the same rituals every year is a comfort. And yet, there is always something new to learn as well.

We are told to examine the past year of our lives, to look at how we interacted with those around us. On Rosh Hashanah we begin that period of mindfulness, and are encouraged to make things right with others, and with G-d. What a wonderful way to start a “New Year”!

I wish all of you a sweet, healthy New Year! Ellen

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Our Voices features the insights and thoughts of  CBI members and guests. Topics include, but are not limited to, personal insights on the weekly Torah portion, thoughts about community, Jewish identity, culture and more. We welcome your thoughts.  If you wish to contribute, please send your blog post to alan@alansilverman.com, along with any pictures you'd like to include. Thanks and we look forward to sharing your thoughts with the CBI community.