Happy New Year: A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road. He is also the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton.

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The Jewish Holy Day most commonly called Rosh HaShanah, falls this year early in the secular calendar, beginning on Sept. 4th.  It is known by many names, each offering insight into the meaning and ritual of the day designed to help Jews enter into a new year with improved focus and understanding.

Rosh HaShanah “Head of the Year” 
Rosh HaShanah is both the most common and the most recent name for this Holy Day, celebrating the birthday of the world. We eat apples and honey to remind us both of the cycle of life and as a symbol of hope for a sweet new year.

Yom HaDin “Day of Judgement” 
Rabbinic tradition teaches, and liturgy for the day reminds us, that this is a day when our actions of the past year are judged by God. It is also a day for each of us to engage in self-judgement, self-assessment and self-examination – a reflective time to be honest about yourself and who you hope to become.

Yom HaZikaron “Day of Remembrance”
The name the Jewish Bible gives for this day reflects the idea that God remembers each of us and that we are to remember and try to learn from our actions.  Our Tashlich ceremony, when we symbolically throw our sins into the water, inspires us to remember our actions, right any wrongs an re-focus ourselves.

Yom T’ruah “Day of Sounding of the Shofar”

In the book of Leviticus we are instructed to blow a ram’s horn, a wake up call, reminding us to listen and to pay attention, to take action to improve ourselves and our world.  We hear, or make, short and long blasts from the shofar (ram’s horn) suggesting that some of our personal or worldly repairs will be quick fixes and some will take a long time.

As URJ Education specialist Lisa Langer writes, the many names for this day illustrate the richness of the Jewish tradition .
L’shanah tovah u’mitukah, May it be a sweet and healthy year for you and your family.



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