This weekend is Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, which marks 5770 years since the creation of the world, according to tradition. Rosh Hashanah also begins a ten day period known as the "Days of Awe" and the "10 Days of Repentance", during which Jews are called upon to reflect on the previous year, repent for transgressions and sins against God, and beg forgiveness directly from those they have wronged. On Rosh Hashanah, we are taught, the fate of every Jew is written, and then sealed on Yom Kippur, 10 days later. This period allows us an opportunity to repent and try and remedy the sins and misdeeds we have committed during the previous year, and to plead our case before God for a better fate and so our names will be written in the Book of Life.
There are many traditions specific to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, including the eating of apples with honey (symbolizing the hope for the coming year to be sweet) and pomegranates (symbolizing the wish that the coming year should be as full of blessings as the pomegranate is of seeds), and hearing the shofar, an instrument made from a ram's horn, the sound of which, according to the Mishna Torah, sends a message saying "Wake up from your (moral) sleep. You are asleep. Get up from your slumber. You are in a deep sleep. Search for your behavior. Become the best person you can. Remember God, the One Who created you."
This year, I learned of another tradition, one I had not heard of before. According to the Talmud, one should not sleep during the day on Rosh Hashanah (afternoon napping being one of my favorite parts of Jewish holidays, right up there with the holiday meals) because "if one sleeps at the beginning of the year, his good fortune also sleeps." The recommendation: one should study Torah instead.
So now, in addition to everything else, I have yesterday afternoon to ask forgiveness for as well...
Shana tova u'metuka, may this be a healthy and good new year for everyone.
Dennis Rosen, M.D.
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