Most of us live our lives according to the Gregorian calendar and celebrate its new year, with the Jewish new year just around the corner why should we have two calendars?
The late Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz expands on the roles of these two calendars in our lives. The world runs on the Gregorian calendar, which Hebrew speakers call “l’minyanam” (literally, “by their count”). This calendar can tell us about the general everyday proceedings of our lives and the world.
The Jewish calendar tells us the dates throughout the year from the perspective of the Jewish people. During Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, we are imbued with a particular atmosphere suitable for each and every time of the year. On Hanukkah, we light candles to spread an ever-increasing light. On Purim, we celebrate our miraculous survival. In the spring we tell the freedom story of our Jewish collective.
The Jewish year begins with the aptly named holiday, Rosh Hashanah – the “head,” or beginning, of the entire year. Notably, Jewish tradition tells us that God created humanity on Rosh Hashanah, not the universe. In other words, we begin to count time from the moment of human presence on earth.
Rosh Hashanah perfect time for self-reflection
At the beginning of the Jewish year, we have an opportunity to briefly pause the ongoing marathon of our lives and begin to think. What is the meaning of who we are? What are we doing? Must we change things along the way? On Rosh Hashanah, we make our own beginning, restarting and refreshing our personal Jewish journeys.
We celebrate our own Jewish story, including our connections with ourselves, our families, our friends, our world, and God.
What we share for Rosh Hashana is not intended to replace the traditional prayers and observances of the season. It is meant to create an additional way to connect meaningfully to the holiday using various methods to instill this season with its special spirit.
One of the unique things about the Jewish calendar is its ability to unite the whole Jewish people around common values and ideas as we embark on our common journey. The Jewish journey puts a premium on community, and on the people with whom we undergo meaningful experiences.
This kit provides tools to celebrate and experience Rosh Hashanah and to create a meaningful Jewish experience, even during this challenging time.
Now, go ahead. Sit down with friends and family, or on your own. Read the various passages and answer the questions together or separately. May it be a happy and sweet year! Shanah tovah u-metuka!