Tonight starts Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. It is interesting in that there are many names for this holiday. It is known as Yom Harat Olam – The Birthday of the World. Tonight we commemorate the day that the world was created. Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom Teruah – the day of sounding the Shofar for obiovus reasons in that we are commanded to listen to the Shofar as the coronation of God as King. Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment. We can discuss if this is the end or the beginning of this process of Judgement. And of course we could not forget that tonight starts Yom HaZikaron– the Day of Remembrance. What else might we have to remember?
So we clearly have the creation of the world. We also have a personal accounting for the year our personal histories, and particularly our behaviour over the last year. Some claim that it is in memory of the Akedah. This binding of Isaac represents the first of a our long history of national existential crises. We read this portion on Rosh HaShanah and it is the tradition that the binding happened on this day, first of Tishrei. While Abraham was the first Jew by choice, Isaac was the first person born Jew. This not being sacrificed in some ways represents the recreation of the first Jew. This Shofar itself reminds of the Ram sacrificed in Isaac’s place on the altar. In an interesting way it also serves to announce Isaac. While God is the true King, we too connect to our royalty on this holiday.
So one question I have is if tomorrow is really Yom Harat Olam? According to the Talmud Rosh Hashanah there are two opinions as to the date of God’s creation of the universe. According to Rabbi Eliezer, “The world was created in Tishrei,” that is the sixth day of creation, which is the day of which Adam and Eve were created, was the first of Tishrei, celebrated each year as Rosh Hashanah. According to Rabbi Joshua, “The world was created in Nisan.”(Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a) Which isYom Harat Olam, Rosh HaShanah or Rosh Hodesh Nissan? Some mystics resolved this question by claiming that the physical world was created in Tishrei, while the “supernal idea” of creation had emerged earlier, in the month of Nisan.
When the Torah is discussing Nissan is says:
1 Observe the month of Aviv, and keep the Passover for the Lord your God; for in the month of Aviv the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall sacrifice the Passover-offering for the Lord your God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to cause God’s name to dwell there. 3 You shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt you eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. (Deuteronomy 16:1-3)
Which is Yom Harat Olam seems connected to knowing which is Yom HaZikaron? What are we trying to remember? Tomorrow is the day we recall the sparing of the first Jew at the hands of his father. In Nissan we remember the sparing of the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians. I might feel differently come Nissan, but for now with so many looming existential crises right now in Israel and in the rest of world, it seems not to matter. We could use as many reminders in a year or in a day as we can. Regardless if we experience issues as personal, familial, tribal, local, regional, state, national, global, we all need fixing. In the immortal words of George Santayana , “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. I hope that when we hear the sound of the Shofar we find a way to return to a better relationships in our lives and in our own way be “reborn” and recreated for the coming year. May we all be remembered well and judged favorably.
Shanah Tova- Gmar Chatima Tova