Shanah tovah! I wish you a good and healthy New Year. May it be as sweet as apples and honey.
It’s not very Jewish to wish each other a Happy New Year, although we do it. It’s not very Jewish because we’re realists: no one has a fully happy year, let alone week or even day. Our lives are a series of moments, some joyful, some boring, some upsetting or morose. A year of happiness is an impossibility.
Indeed, the Hebrew word for “year – shanah,” contains some great wisdom. The Hebrew root, Shin-Nun-Hey, has two meanings – REPEAT and CHANGE. Etymologists aren’t certain whether the two are connected or separate, historically. Even so – what a powerful message!
At New Year, we become aware that we’re doing it all over again – another autumn, another quarterly report, another vacation, another chance to do it better. And we’re aware that life is changing – third grade is different from fourth grade, our bodies are maturing, our perspectives shift, people in our lives come and go. Although it may appear similar, next year will not be a repeat of what’s gone before. To expect more of the same is to invite disappointment. Better, rather, to be open to possibility and surprise – and to be prepared for change.
Such flexibility requires a particular kind of strength: resilience. That’s the power to recover from hardship, to spring back to shape. Resilience, rather than might or determination, allows us to accept what comes our way. Resilient people still feel loss, but their world isn’t shattered. They understand that while change can be painful, it may even bring improvement. Resilience, like a muscle, can be developed. We can train ourselves to let go and, at the same time, to spot advantages. We can practice gratitude for what-is and what-has-been. We can allow ourselves to sit and experience the universal reality of impermanence.
At Temple Emanuel, we’ll experience this same-yet-different-ness directly during our High Holy Day services.
Much will be the same as it has been: a chance to see dear friends and use our glorious machzor (itself only four years old) with its dazzling array of readings that touch the heart and spark the mind. We’ll return to Dayspring Church on Elliot with its beautiful light, comfortable seats, air conditioning, and curved rows that allow us to see and feel each other’s presence. (Last year was our first year there!) We’ll once again offer our children a meaningful and age-appropriate experience of the High Holy Days.
But it will be different, too. Suzanne Guinane will lead us in song, bringing her own hiddush (beautifying touch) to the proceedings. The tempos may be a bit different, and there may be a new piece or two. What a lovely opportunity to grow and experience something new, to experience directly the core of SHANAH – a repeat that’s both the same and different at the same time.
Honey is a perfect symbol for Rosh Hashanah. It’s not only sweet, but viscus. Sitting in a pot, honey appears to be stationary. Tip the pot just a bit, however, and it oozes and flows. Honey, like time and like life, is never actually still.