It’s that time of the year again…
The time for mama’s famous cake recipe!
The time for buying some apples to dip in honey!
The time to watch “Fiddler on the Roof” and cry about being away from my family!
That’s right – it’s Rosh Hashanah!
This year – to combat the homesickness I encountered last year – I’m putting plans in place.
Safeguarding measures, if you will.
And top of that list?
A family dinner.
With my friends.
Because, as discussed, some friends are family.
I am assembling a small group of friends – some Jews, some gentle Gentiles – and am going to play the role of my mother:
I’m going to cook up a storm!
The friends who will be in attendance have requested a little information about the holiday.
And Rabbit Ash is not ready!
I told them that I’d prepare a little something-something to say…
And now the pressure is on!
What to say?
How much is too much explanation?
How to make this interesting?
The responsibility of being a Rabbit is almost too much to bear!
But it is a mantle I’m prepared to live up to.
So I did some research…
As I was looking up different tellings of the Sarah/Abraham/Hagar story so as to remind myself of particular details, I was once again struck by the realisation of just how interconnected the major faiths of the world are – with Abraham being the father of both Judaism and of Islam.
Also, I got sidetracked into reading more about the Baha’i Faith – if I can’t find a #jewishhusband maybe I should marry into their tribe instead..?
Suddenly, this whole Shul is coming unravelled!
Ok, so back to the point…
I was reading up on my stories.
I was salivating about the food.
And then, I was in contemplation mode – my brain went to the endless disagreements between Judaism and Islam, which then took me to thoughts of prejudices against either religion, which then led me to thoughts of the hate-mongering Trump himself, which then brought me back to people’s thoughts on the State of Israel (just try LIVING with this brain!) – when I decided I needed to reset my thoughts before coming back to the writing.
No sooner had I clicked onto another site, than I read of the death of Shimon Peres.
And, suddenly, this New Year’s post takes on a new spin.
I’m not an authority on Israeli politics.
I don’t pretend to be.
I have also made it known – on more than one occasion in my life – that I don’t tow the J-party line on Zionism, Israel or the Middle East.
But, having said all of that, I can acknowledge when someone has made an historical and political difference.
Even without doing significant reading, I got a good sense of the guy and the effect that his death may have on the region.
And I wondered how this could be tied into the practices of celebrating the New Year…
The things that I was realising about Rosh Hashanah were that it is a time for reflection and casting off.
Let me explain.
This New Year’s Eve and Day, which we celebrate fairly sedately by attending shul or spending with family rather than going out partying, is the beginning of a 10 day period of reflection and repentance.
It’s not completely unknown to the world that we Jew-folk figured out how to avoid the Catholic-style once-a-week confession in a pretty succinct day of fasting and apologising, but it is less known that the whole “sorry” period actually kicks off on Rosh Hashanah.
We are given time to consider what we’ve done – or haven’t done – in the year previous before blindly atoning the following week.
We are given time to approach those we have wronged and try to make amends.
And, we are given time to start a-fresh.
The week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur exists as the fresh pages of our new book.
Or the blank screen of a fresh blog post…
Before we commit pen to paper, we have a week to draw a rough outline in pencil.
To consider where we wish to take our story.
So that, by the time we reach the Day of Atonement, we not only understand the wrongs we’ve made, but the ways in which we aim to be better this coming year.
As the article I linked to above suggests, Peres the man was a great metaphor for Israel, his country.
I choose to take this metaphor further now, cued by the timing of his passing.
The article says that he was the last of his kind of Israeli politician – those who truly believed peace to be possible.
I am as guilty as the next person of believing that a Middle Eastern peace is an impossibility.
But, maybe, in his death, he has given us all the chance to take stock, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, take stock of the wrongs that have been made.
Take stock of the strategies that have failed and the negotiations that petered out.
It’s time to take stock and consider how we atone for the things in Israel’s past of which we may be ashamed and consider now how best to move toward a possible peace.
I will be taking the opportunity, in the first 10 days of year 5777, to consider the same.
For Israel, maybe.
For myself, definitely.
I’ll recite the kaddish to honour Peres and the many others who will not see 5777.
I’ll be thinking of those I honoured with the same prayer in May.
I’ll sing Avinu Malkeinu toward the heavens.
I’ll be thinking of the tone-deaf family members I’m used to hearing sing it beside me.
I’ll enjoy the sweet goodness of the honey cake, the symbolism of my round challah and I’ll allow the sound of the shofar to propel me into another year of adventures.
And I’ll know that all around the world, people like me are united in reflection.
Jews or not.