“As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend.”
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Rosh Hashanah falls in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar and just like Shabbat, or the Sabbath, it is set apart. This time is set aside to celebrate all things new, fresh, and sweet. It is a happy time but carries serious spiritual significance as it commemorates the creation of the world. Rosh Hashanah literally means "head [of] the year" and it often symbolized with a fish head or a head of lettuce. The biblical name is Yom Teruah, literally "day of shouting or blasting" - or, Feast of Trumpets. It is the first of the High Holy Days - the Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashana is full of deep and meaningful symbols. It is a time set aside to remember the goodness of God and His many blessings He has given His people. The shofar is blown to get our attention, to warn us, and to help us focus our minds and hearts on Him. In Exodus 19 and 20, we find that the shofar was used to blast the people into attention as the Ten Commandments were given as a gift. "Listen carefully!," it cried out. Along with the shofar blasts, there was smoke, fire, thunder, lightning, and the mountain shook! It is safe to say that God really wanted to make sure they were paying attention!
Another well-known symbol used on Rosh Hashana is the apple and honey combination. The more you dig into the holiday, the more meaning you will find to this combo - but, the main thing is that it symbolizes sweetness. "God's ways are sweet!" is a common phrase used around this time. His commandments are sweet because He gave them to us to keep us safe and able to live a robust life. We eat the apples dipped in honey to declare His Word to be sweet!
One of my favorite symbols is to take bread crumbs to a moving body of water to symbolize the washing away of our sins. Now, in the interest of being completely transparent, I do not focus much on sin but rather focus on where I missed the mark. This allows me to have mercy on my own self knowing full-well that God has total grace and forgiveness for me. Each bread crumb represents a situation in which you did not do your best - talking behind someone's back unintentionally (or intentionally!), losing your temper, etc. This year, we are using paper that dissolves in water. We can write on the paper and watch as it dissolves, imagining God's love and mercy as the water covering all our missed targets.
Each and every family has a different way to celebrate but you will always find certain elements represented. If you have not grown up celebrating these holidays, do not feel pressured to do things exactly how another person says you must celebrate. If all you can muster up is a bunch of Granny Smiths and a honey bear - DO IT! You'll find that each symbol you incorporate - even if it is only one symbol - will leave you feeling deeply connected and strongly rooted in your faith.
“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”
Rosh Hashana offers a beautiful time for healing and introspection. It is a time to ask God to reveal things that you need to let go of and to symbolically let go. There is something powerful about taking external action to symbolize an internal change. By forgiving yourself and forgiving others, you are actively participating in your healing.
Some things, though, seem as though they are just here to stay and no matter the amount of letting go, you just cannot shake it. That burden seems set on staying. This is when you lean in, hold fast, and focus intently. Your burden may not fully lighten but you can find the strength to thrive through it.
In the quote above, the prayer is for strength to shoulder the heavy burden instead of for a lighter burden. What I find so beautiful is that those broader shoulders come when we lean up against our Creator. Our burden suddenly becomes lighter because we have the Most High God helping to carry the weight!
“Change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change.”
Once you have released the concerns and positioned yourself leaning on your Creator, you can take a huge sigh of relief and begin nourishing yourself with the sweetness of God! You may find extra space in your heart now that those concerns have been washed away! Fill it with God's sweet Word!
As you nourish, you will begin to understand the meaning of the burdens that remain. You may even begin to feel joy in the struggle! But, nourish yourself now so that when it becomes too heavy to carry - you can quickly readjust your posture and He can shoulder that weight for you once again.
THE HEAD OF YOUR HEALING
Every year, Rosh Hashanah arrives right on time. It is the head of the year and the head of your healing. As we walk through the High Holy Days - these Days of Awe - we will find more opportunities for healing moments. This is only the beginning! And, if you miss it, it is more than okay! God's cyclical nature gives us chance after chance, moment after moment, celebration after celebration to lean into Him and grab hold of our healing.
I'LL LEAVE YOU WITH THIS QUOTE
“In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past. It would not be an exaggeration to say that forgiveness is the most compelling testimony to human freedom. It is about the action that is not reaction. It is the refusal to be defined by circumstance. It represents our ability to change course, reframe the narrative of the past and create an unexpected set of possibilities for the future…In the face of tragedy, forgiveness is the counter-narrative of hope. It is not a moral luxury, an option for saints. At times it is the only path through the thickets of hate to the open spaces of coexistence.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
L'shana Tova! May your year be blessed and your healing be sweet!
For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for helping others to find their healing. The past few years have been a test in trusting the Creator for provisions and living in complete and total worship to my King. As I find myself coming through the other side of the valley, I am learning to live with both wings moving; flying balanced and fully committed to the process of living a life of faith and trust.