My youngest sister and her family are Jewish. It is a long and complicated story, but we get a lot of laughs at the fact that I am a minister and my former brother-in-law is a Rabbi.
They celebrated Rosh Hashanah last week. The Jewish New Year is not much like the secular New Year celebration of champagne, countdowns and football games.
They do eat special food: apples dipped in honey, a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year. At the synagogue, they sound the shofar, a trumpet-like instrument made from a ram's horn. One hundred notes in a special pattern signify a call to repentance. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). They go to a place where there is flowing water and empty their pockets into the river or stream, symbolically casting off sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off.
There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the secular one: Many of us use the January 1 New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.
September is also a time of new beginnings for many of us as the school year begins, many return to church after time away for the summer, and other activities start up for the fall session. It is a time when our calendars fill up and the days get shorter.
Here is a prayer suitable for a new season, a new ministry and a New Year:
God, Give new shape to our vision.
Help us to see new possibilities, new places, new spaces.
Give us the courage to reach for that newness.
Go before us, and with us, and after us.
We trust that you will. Remind us of that, too.
L'Shana Tova (Happy new year!),