Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Begininngs

Rosh Hashana, often called the Jewish New Year, began at sundown yesterday. This has a special meaning to me this year because a friend of mine, an Orthodox Jew, is enduring a very dark time in her life right now. I hope she will find some peace and renewal in the 10 days of Repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonment.

Rosh Hashana has dual meanings to the Jews. Firstly, it celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world. It is one of four celebrations of beginnings that Jews observe throughout the year. Secondly, and most importantly, Rosh Hashana is a time for remembrance, repentance, and atonement. It is a time for wiping out past transgressions and starting over with a clean slate and a new chance at life, a year older and, hopefully, a year wiser.

The ritual I personally find most meaningful in this observance is the Tashlich, which is performed on the afternoon of the first day (today). The Tashlich requires going to a nearby stream or other body of water and casting bread crumbs upon it, to symbolize casting off your sins, while reciting specific prayers.

I think we all need ceremonies like this in ourt lives. Our traditional Western New Year's celebrations center around parties and resolutions for change. Unfortunately, the tradition also includes the breaking of resolutions. They are not taken very seriously. I think it would be better to adopt a tradition like the Tashlich in our lives. Using ritual and symbolism imbues our actions and resolutions with deep meaning and shows that we are serious about them. Rituals like this sink deep into our subsonscious and take on a mystical power that makes it hard for us to renege on our promises.

The beginning of a new year is also the end of the old. It is a time for collecting our memories, reflecting on them, and charting our course through the months to come. I agree with the Jews: this is a serious business. I am going to think about what rituals I can adopt to bring that lesson home.

We don't even have to wait until a specific day to make a new start. That is really just an invitation to procrastination. Any day, every day, can be a new beginning. All it takes is a firm resolve and a plan for improvement. We've all heard the old cliche: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Cliches become cliches for a reason. The truths they tell can be powerful, even when clothed in trite phrases.

Tired of the same old same old? Going nowhere? Maybe it's time to celebrate your own personal New Year.

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