Now for a final helping of pre High Holiday material that won’t show up in prime time. First it was the CEO and the boiled seeds and the truth, last week it was the hunters and the two buffalo on the tiny plane and how we keep doing the same things. This Wednesday I want to talk about the calendar, as some of my colleagues will, because…
This is the earliest that Rosh Hashanah has fallen since 1899. And wait till Thanksgiving, when we light the first Chanukah candle the Wednesday night before. Never have those days coincided and they will never again. You will be inundated with great revelations on that topic, but not from me I promise, because I am already saturated with emails about it.
For now, I think Rosh Hashanah (early or late) does help us mark time in two important ways. One, it helps us to be more contemplative of the passing of time. On the world scene, look at the anniversaries that we mark this year: the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ADL (in response to the last official lynching to take place in Georgia, that of Leo Frank), the 100th anniversary of Franz Rosenzweig’s Kol Nidre epiphany (he walked into church that night, ready to convert to Christianity, but the effect was opposite and he went on to become one of the great Jewish thinkers of all time), the 100th birthday of Menachem Begin, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, and the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. These events and milestones carry much significance and are worthy of contemplation.
And what about the passing of time in our own personal lives? Think about the past year. What would be the moments that you would want to redo? What moments were so special that you would want to freeze them in time if you could? Rosh Hashanah gives us the opportunity to replay those moments and learn what we can from them or just enjoy them again.
And the other calendar related focus? The holiday also gives us the opportunity to think about how we might use our time more wisely. Most of us are have calendars that are over full, working parents especially. But many of us can blame ourselves for some of the overload – it is often of our own doing and we could carve out at least a little more free time if we wanted to. Less TV. Less web surfing. More reading or study. More community building. More family time. More of whatever we know we are lacking in the lives we are living. Rosh Hashanah, like January 1, is a time to think about changing how we live our lives. Unlike January 1, Rosh Hashanah gives us real and undistracted time – in sacred community not on the sofa watching parades and football games – to think about adjustments. Let us use the time wisely.
Rosh Hashanah does come early. Tonight. May it be the start of a good and sweet new year for you and yours, a year in which we all benefit from the wisdom of the Psalmist who said, “Teach us, O Lord, to number our days.” Best, Bill Rudolph
P.S. Check your tickets for service times and locations. And don’t forget your assignment: make a list of things you did in the last year that you wish you hadn’t done. And then make a list of things you did in the last year that made you proud of the kind of person you are. Share your list with loved ones if you wish, but surely bring it with you to services. Think about it periodically but not during the sermons. It will remind you of the capacity we all have for doing evil and for doing good.