We Jews are strange people.
We cover the challah so it doesn’t get jealous when be bless the wine first.
We spend a week living in a wooden shack of sorts just so we can remember what life was like in the desert for forty years.
And we drink a lot of wine. Perhaps it’s a way to help us decipher all the symbols around us. Or to get past the stress of having to deal with them…
Tonight, we surround ourselves with a world of new symbols. The shofar is reminiscent of days of old. It awakes the mind and soul. The apples and honey nourish our bodies and invoke a sweet new year. And the round loaf of bread… it is symbolic of our world and the roundness of time.
Why not just set the table with an alarm clock, some coffee, and a calendar? Why does everything have to be symbolic? Why – when we know what is meant by all of these objects – do we use distant representations rather than realistic items?
At Rosh Hashanah, we are meant to examine ourselves individually and communally. It is the beginning of the time of renewal. A sort of yearly psychiatric check-in. This is not a symbolic check-in … to be sure, we must renew ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, religiously, psychologically, and in many other adverbial ways.
And so, while it would be easy enough to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a birthday cake, we instead use symbols to do so. Because the real, concrete work that is being done is within ourselves.
On this Rosh Hashanah, I wish you all a Shanah Tovah u’Metukah – a sweet and happy new year. May this chag be a time of meaningful personal renewal, and may you find joy and happiness in the coming year.