Rosh Hashonna celebrates the birthday of the World. Each year, as we celebrate, the World is Born Anew. This is a time of incredible possibilities for everyone, people, trees, mountains, earth, animals, birds, everyone.
The month preceding Rosh Hashonnah, Elul, is a time of preparation. It is said that the Divine is more available to us during Elul, and the Shofar (Ram’s Horn) is blown every day. The piercing cry of the Shofar wakes up our souls. It causes us to stop our usual distracted ways, to Listen and Be Present to the call of God.
The main mitzvah of Rosh Hashonna is to hear the call of the Shofar, which sounds again and again throughout the service calling us home to Gd, to ourselves, and to the cries of the world. The Shofar is medicine. Our hardened hearts are the illness.
A mitzvah is not simply a good deed, it is a form through which we draw divine energy into our lives and into the world. When we do the mitzvahas, we live an entirely different life, one based upon divine commandments, not upon our automatic perceptions or responses. Then life becomes as sweet as honey. And we eat apples with honey on Rosh Hashonnah to celebrate that. The days between Rosh Hashonna and Yom Kippur, a week later, are taken as a whole. This is a time of deep accounting for who we have been during the past year. It is a time for rectification, so our lives can start anew.
We account to God, to ourselves and to one another. An important practice of the month of Elul is to call everyone you know and say. “If I have done anything to hurt you this past year, please forgive me.” This is a time of reconciliation with all.
Even with the best intentions, blind obedience to forms, obsession and group pressure can and do lead many astray. Anger, judgmental attitudes and domination can easily replace the kindness, generosity and wisdom that are at the heart of all true practice.
Throughout the holiday season, over and over again we ask for forgiveness. Our need forgiveness is due to living with a hardened heart, one that was not able to truly see, hear or love the other. Often our hearts need to be broken in half, so we can truly feel what is happening, become available to what God wants of us.
Once our hearts are open, then we can make Teshuvah, turn our lives and hearts back to God. Rosh Hashonna is ultimately about making Teshuvah, returning to God, to the original meaning and strength of our lives.
Certain aspects of the holiday may be too difficult to practice, others enjoyable. When asked the best way to practice, Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz said it was impossible to say. Each should find that which speaks to them, that which is uplifting. For one the way is through study, for another meditation, another prayer or fasting and yet for another through eating. Carefully observe the way your heart draws you and then choose this way with your entire strength.
Brenda Shoshanna is a psychologist, long term practitioner of Zen and Judaism. An Interfaith Counselor, she is also an author and speaker. Brenda’s work focuses upon integrating the teachings of East and West and helping make them real in your everyday life Some of her books include, Zen Play, (Instructions on Becoming Fully Alive), Zen and the Art of Falling in Love, Fearless, and many more. Brenda offers a weekly podcast, Zen Wisdom For Your Everyday Life. You can learn more at www.brendashoshanna.com, and www.zenwisdomtoday.com