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I like a clean desk, and today is a clean desk kind of day. A day when you take all the piles—the books and folders and junk mail and snibbles of notes and whatnot and neatly (or not so neatly) cram them into the cabinet behind you or onto the shelf (out of this photo) to the left so that you have an uncluttered working surface, and thus an uncluttered mind. That’s how I prefer to work, anyway. Although seldom does it happen in that way. But today’s different. Today is a new beginning! A time to start over, to begin anew! A time, thanks to the fun video below, to get clarity.
The music video takes the Daft Punk song, Get Lucky and puts a High Holy Days’ polish on it, even including a funky guitar solo. It is described in the newspaper Haaretz:
You’ve got your breakdancing yeshiva bochurs leaping around the Old City of Jerusalem, flaunting their boy-band moves, (no girls or women appear, heaven forbid!) you’ve got your cute blond prepubescent Orthodox Justin Bieber, and your 70’s Deadhead-turned-Carlebach hassid guitarist and singer with the long beard rocking out. And then there’s the catchy song melody based on one of the year’s big pop hits, with preachy lyrics imploring us to be a better person in the New Year.
Today begins—technically speaking “today” began at sundown, 7:20 pm here in New York, last night—Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the start of the High Holy Days.
Now, I’m not Jewish. I don’t know a whole lot about this holiday. Mostly, I know because it has come so early in the calendar year and right after Labor Day, New York City public schools don’t begin until next week. Also, I know that many of my Jewish friends ate apples dipped in honey, symbolism to begin a sweet new year. Along with all the recent first day of school pictures in other parts of the country, Facebook was rather filled last night with cute little children eating apples and honey! A pretty good holiday in my book would includes apples and honey and children, so it sounds good to me.
I also know that it’s a time to blow the ram’s horn, the shofar. Any holiday that includes musical instruments is sort of cool by association, right? When I think of the shofar I think of the movie The Ten Commandments, the one by Cecil B. DeMille. Which often brings Charleston Heston to mind… eh, and him, I wasn’t a big fan of. But the shofar, yes! The scene I think of—my most favourite in the movie—is when all the slaves have assembled to be released from bondage and leave Egypt; it’s like a closing ceremonies of the Olympics kind of scene with the various tribes and peoples and even all their livestock ready to depart to freedom. And then the shofar blows and the people begin their journey. Or at least I think there was a shofar in that scene… In my mind there is.
But of course, Rosh Hashanah is about more than food, music, and dancing yeshiva students. It’s a time of repentance, a time to make things right. I have learned from some of my Jewish friends of the practice of Tashlikh. Observed differently on various days of the High Holidays, sometimes on Rosh Hashanah, sometimes later, it is a ritual often done communally where people assemble near flowing water, prayers are said, and bread or stones are thrown into the water to symbolize a casting off of sins. (Incidentally, there are various locations in Brooklyn and Queens where travel is stopped because of the large number of persons observing this ritual.)
It’s a new year and a new beginning. Thus, it’s a time to clean the desk and begin anew. I appreciate that there are times and seasons, days and events, even rituals to mark new beginnings. I’ve never been big on traditional January New Year resolutions, but for some reason I am finding myself very drawn to make them now.
All that said, what I really appreciate about Rosh Hashanah—again, as little as I truly know about it—is that it is more than simply out with the old and in with the new. It is that, but it attempts to acknowledge the old with repentance as it turns toward to new. It acknowledges sin and who we are, which oddly, is a good reminder as we enter a sweet new year. To begin with humility and humbleness. We could all use a little more of that it would seem.
So wherever you are this day, and whoever you are, Shanah Tovah! May you have a good year!