What is your earliest Rosh Hashanah memory? The sounds, the smells, the tastes, the feelings?
For me, it’s Grandma’s apple cake, legendary beyond all measure. Big trays packed with outrageously delicious squares of perfection: multi-layered dough mixed with sweet mushy apple filling, cinnamon, and Grandma’s love.
Long before I knew what Rosh Hashanah meant—the head of the year—I knew in my heart that it was about family, togetherness, wholeness, and love. Then at shul, the shofar blasts would reverberate in my body, giving me a real sense of awe. This is the unique mix of emotion at Rosh Hashanah: wholeness and renewal mixed with vulnerability and yearning for a good year ahead.
Rosh Hashanah is also Yom HaZikaron – the Day of Remembrance. The day we remember the Creation of the World, the earth’s Birthday! The original Earth Day. And Rosh HaShanah is also Yom HaDin- the Day of Judgment.
בְּראֹשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן, וּבְיוֹם צוֹם כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן
BeRosh HaShanah tikvateivu, uvyom tzom kippur yechateimun.
On Rosh HaShanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
No pressure. And no wonder Jews are famous for our anxiety…
There’s no shortage of judgment raining down all around us. As Ezra Klein asks, What Have We Learned from a Summer of Climate Reckoning?
It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the state of the world, to turn away from the reality we live in this year, and next. But our tradition forbids it. We are called to look ourselves in the mirror, individually and collectively.
But on this day, judgment is balanced by memory. Remembrance, like when G!d remembers Sarah and gives her and Avraham a son, Yitzhak. Remembrance, when G!d remembers Hannah and gives her a son, Shmuel. Remembrance, when G!d hears our cry, remembers the Israelite slaves, and brings us out of exile, time and again. Remembrance, when we return- teshuvah- and come back into alignment, into balance, into joy.
Who will live and who shall die? Who knows. We do not know what judgment awaits us or our world; all we know is how we choose to live—today, and every day, for ourselves and our children, for each other and for the world.
This year, may we be blessed, written, and sealed in the Book of Life. And may G!d remember us and help us restore justice, peace, and balance on earth.
Chief Executive Officer