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A New Year — A New Beginning

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September 5, 2012

Shalom,

It is hard for me to believe that another year has passed, and that Rosh Hashanah is upon us. So much has happened in the past twelve months, and I feel blessed to have this holiday set aside as a time of reflection. Too often my life is so hectic that I rarely have time to take a moment – let alone two full days – to simply focus on the goodness that God has bestowed on me and the world. The two days of Rosh Hashanah are a time to examine the year that has passed and set goals for the future. On these days, we pray that God will give us the strength and vision that we need to improve ourselves and our surroundings in a holy manner.

The world turns with the cycles that God created. I always try to remind myself that in the physical world God created four seasons that each have their own characteristics. In the spiritual world He created the holy days with their own unique energy as well. Just as God created winter as a good time to go skiing and summer as suitable time for sun bathing, He created Passover with a focus on personal redemption and Rosh Hashanah with the blessing of new beginnings. Each holiday is a unique gift from God.

Jewish tradition holds that on Rosh Hashanah God signs each person in the book of life or death for the upcoming year, then on Yom Kippur that fate is sealed. I remember being a little girl and running around doing good deeds before Rosh Hashanah. I would ask forgiveness from my friends for anything I might have done to hurt them, give a lot to charity, and pray to God with all of my heart to register me and my family in the book of life. Rosh Hashanah really developed my personal relationship with God because I would spend the whole holiday telling Him all of the things I wanted Him to grant me for the upcoming year, ranging from good health to a new Nintendo game (I was a child, after all!). When the holiday of Rosh Hashanah ended, I truly looked at God as my loving father. I always left synagogue on this holy day with a feeling of peace and joy.

Now that I am older, I no longer pray for the same things that I did when I was young, yet that emotional attachment to God and the heartfelt prayers still envelop me from the moment Rosh Hashanah begins. I still take time to call friends and loved ones before the holiday and share memories of the previous year in tears and laughter. The prayers that are sung in synagogue over Rosh Hashanah still move my soul. I have realized that each year I grow a little closer to God and a bit more faithful. The older I get and more experiences I have, the more awed I am by His greatness.

I feel blessed to have this special tradition to pass on to my children and I feel joy when I see the godly connection being formed within them as well on Rosh Hashanah. My four-year-old daughter has already begun listing the things that she is thankful for and speaking to God like He is her best friend.

Some of my friends grew up in homes where the holidays were focused on family, yet God was rarely in the picture. They had a nice meal, but didn’t go to church or synagogue or even bless God for the food they were eating. My new year’s resolution is to include God in everything, and thank Him daily for the wonders He performs.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Shana Tova — a happy new year.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael