ReNewing at Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is...the anniversary of creation, the birthday of the world. 

The blank page. The blank canvas. The blank stage. New is fresh, new is again, new is begin, and new is starting from scratch. New is exciting, but it's also pretty intimidating, which is why it's so hard. New might be appealing, but it's also exhausting. Luckily, there's new and then there's reNew. Luckily, there's Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday of ReNewal. This means you're not starting from scratch. ReNew is coming back around to what's already been.

Rosh Hashanah—the head of the New year, is the beginning of a new cycle- it is a reCycle, going back again to where we left off last year. We're not beginning from a nothing place, however. We start with a something place. We start with who we are and who we've been all year long. When we recycle, we find new uses for the things that have been used before. It's the same with Rosh Hashanah's reCycling. Last year's actions have been used up, emptied, holding nothing for us. But they can be made into something wonderful. We re-energize, re-engage, re-new.

Take Shabbat. It's all about reNew. Every week, we reMove ourselves from the world, taking some time to reForm our souls. It's the exhale to the week-long inhale. Like Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah is another beginning. It begins on the first of the seventh month, Tishrei, and just like on the seventh day, the seventh month is when we hit the reStart button.

It is Yom Hazikaron—the day of memory, reMinding ourselves where our minds and actions have been this last year. It is Yom Teshuva-day of reTurning. Turn and turn again, so that we're facing in the direction that will lead us to a good New Year. Our attention was diverted, and we need to re-turn to what (and how) we were doing before we got distracted. 

We encountered problems last year, and tried to solve them. Now is the time to reSolve those problems. We'll face them again in the coming year. And as Maimonides said, the true measure of whether or not someone has done complete teshuva, re-turning, is that their behavior changes when confronted with the same choice of action a second time. So, we'll see.  

Rosh Hashanah is also a time to rebuild. Connections have been lost between us and those whom we love. They have deteriorated or dissolved. We reconstruct those connections, so the bridges of understanding and tolerance are rebuilt, bringing more peace and fullness, true shalem, to the world and those around us. Rosh Hashanah gives us that chance.

Rosh Hashanah is Yom HaDin, the day of Judgment. We reView our actions, and so does God. When we take the time to really examine our actions, and the motivations behind them, we shine some light into the darkness of the decisions we made that didn't end well. Then we can make the adjustments needed for the next year.

Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of creation, the birthday of the world. And just like a brand new presence in the world, we are re-birthed-so the wonders of the natural world, the spectacle of creation will seem like new to us, and we will be struck again with wonder and awe. Rosh Hashanah is a time to reMind ourselves of the world's beauty, turning our minds to its splendor.

ReNew. ReUse. ReCycle. Wishing you the sweetest of New Years.

Anita Silvert is a freelance teacher and writer, living in Northbrook. You can read more of her weekly Torah musings on her blog, Jewish Gems,

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