Eureka! The moment a new idea comes to mind, a new project, a new way of doing things, a new understanding of a situation, is one of the most thrilling sensations possible. All the potential energy of the idea encapsulated into a moment. It’s the big bang of starting something new.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is the yearly Big Bang of creation. Our mystical tradition says that the word shana, year, also means to repeat. Time, as we experience it, is cyclical. The Almighty creates the world each year anew on Rosh Hashanah with the same energy of the Big Bang.
Literally, Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year. We call it the head rather than the new or the beginning because this renewal takes place, as it were, in God’s head. He thinks about the entire world and each and every person and decides each person’s lot, what blessings and challenges he/she will face in the coming year.
Interestingly, Rosh Hashanah does not commemorate the Big Bang of the first day of creation, rather the sixth day, the creation of man. Man is the most prime of all creations, and everything else revolves around man to help and serve him to fulfill his mission.
The Chasidic commentators exp-lain that when God said, “Let us make man,” He was speaking to man himself. “I’ll give you everything you need,” he said, “all you have to do is be righteous, recognize me and keep my commandments.”
The Almighty therefore decided that the yearly cycle should revolve around man.
As with all festivals we are given mitzvoth, commandments through which we can tap into for our greatest benefit.
The mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar.
I found in the writings of Rav Yaakov Emden a remarkable idea about the shofar.
When God made man, He gave him life by blowing a soul into him through his nose.
The shofar is typically shaped like a nose. When we blow the shofar we are symbolically returning our soul to God in the hope that he will once again return it to us for another year. It’s our opportunity to start anew, to have our own Big Bang. Turn over the page on our failings and sins and resolve to live our best possible life. The soul is the source of all human good. It is the light that illuminates the mind and heart to do that which is good and follow in the Almighty’s ways. It’s the true self. It’s not that you have a soul, you are a soul!
Rosh Hashanah is our opportunity to dig deep within and find our true selves. What is it that we stand for? What is really important in life? What does this world lack that I can help fix? It’s a day on which we can achieve clarity of mission, re-orient ourselves to live for that which is important and in fulfillment of our mission as unique human beings. It’s a day on which we can experience our own Big Bang.
I wish you all a very happy 5774. May this New Year bring peace, happiness and good fortune to all the Jewish people.
Nitzan Bergman is executive director of Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning and founder and president of the WOW! program for young professionals.