Sunday, September 12, 2010

Catching Up: A Bitter-Sweet New Year

Catching Up: Circumstances and holidays, Jewish and American, have all come together to create a blog-cation of nearly two weeks at Ragamuffin House and Ragamuffin Ranch. This is the second catching up post today! This week, I am beginning a regular writing routine, in order to be more faithful to blogging on all kinds of topics, not just politics.

Rosh Hashanah 5771:

Shanah Tovah--as the graphic says: A Good Year--for a High Holy Days season that kind of snuck up on us, beginning in the same week as Labor Day.
Our lunar Jewish calendar is intercalated with the Western solar calendar, so that seven times in 19 years, we add a leap month to keep the holy times and seasons in line with the actual seasons. Sometimes leap month comes every two years, and sometimes, like this year, it comes in the third year. When that happens, the second year comes with holy days that are very early according to the solar calendar.

So Rosh Hashanah 5771--the Jewish New Year--snuck up on me, and we almost missed Elul, the month of preparation. Or did we? So much is happening in the world and in our lives, and during Elul, I think our hearts and minds were busy with changes--some welcome, some unexpected, and some necessary to the times and seasons.

On Wednesday evening we ate a very good dinner complete with round cinnamon-raison Challah, dipped our apples in honey--for a sweet year, and then went to synagogue to welcome the new year with our beloved (if at times exasperating) fellow Jews. We hoped and prayed for a good and prosperous year for ourselves and the whole House of Israel. May it be so! May we make it so!

On Thursday and Friday at the first and second day morning services, we performed the Mitzvah--the commandment--of hearing the Shofar, the wild calling of the Ram's Horn, to awaken us, to warn us, to strengthen us for what is coming: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Given the signs of the times, I think the bitter-sweet mood among our fellow Jews is indeed timely. Economic hard times are only beginning, and tends to cause the anti-Semites to come pouring out of the woodwork. Israel is threatened, and war with Iran may not be avoidable, which brings a large number of our people under the gun. And the new Exodus from Europe--Jews leaving countries where they are warned not to tell who they are, or wear a kippah, or a star, for fear of retribution from the growing Muslim majorities in Sweden, in France, only because they exist as Jews. The world grows harder and more troubled.

And yet, we remind ourselves at our solemn and yet hopeful assembly:

". . . how unyielding is the will of our people Israel! After the long nights, after the days and years when our ashes blackened the sky, Israel endures, hearts still turned to love, souls still turned to life.
So day and night, early and late, we still rejoice in the study of Torah, we will walk by the light of Mitzvot. They are our life and the length of our days. Praised be the Source of Life, and Love, and Israel, our people!"
--CCAR and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1978): Sha'arei T'shuvah: The New Union Prayer Book for the Days of Awe (p. 25-26).

We have survived worse, and come back to flourishing life. The dry bones are clothed in new flesh. And at those times when the outside world becomes hard and troubled, we must summon within us the resolve to keep the flame alive within our own hearts, and within the hearts of our homes and our synagogues, in order to succor the strength and resolve to come through this latest great gate in history with strength and honor and love of life.

And may this year indeed be a good year for me, and you, and the whole House of Israel, and the whole world. For Rosh Hashanah commemorates and celebrates the birth of the world, and the goodness of life.

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