As with Chanukah and Purim, I grew up thinking that our current ritual observance of Rosh Hashanah was taken directly from the Torah. I later came to find that Rosh Hashanah (as we know it today) is not mentioned by name in the Torah, nor is there any guidance on how to observe the holiday (other than it is a day of rest and there will be loud horn blasts).
Rosh Hashanah is referenced indirectly in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, in that the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) is called “Yom Teru’ah” or the Day of the Blast (of the horns or Shofarot). The sounding of the Shofar is mentioned several times in the Torah. It was heard at Sinai and it was common practice for the Israelites to utilize the horns for signifying the time to gather for festivals or to signal a time to go to war. So why is Rosh Hashanah on the first day of Tishrei? While, I am clearly not a Torah scholar; one observation that I recall suggests that the horn blasts on the first day of Tishrei may have been to notify the Israelites of the approach of Sukkot, the most significant holiday of the time. Sukkot is referred to as the “Holiday of ingathering,” which falls on the 15th of Tishrei So it is plausible that the sounding of horns was to notify the Israelites that it was time to gather as one people.
It is this interpretation of Rosh Hashanah that has captivated my attention as we enter the New Year. Some events this past year have served as a modern day horn blast to our community, signaling a time to gather. The repugnant marching of white supremacists in Charlottesville, the attacks on religious pluralism at home and abroad, and the continued rise of anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric in Jewish communities around the world are a more than sufficient alert. These blasts should be an ample catalyst for unity in our Jewish community.
Despite our need for solidarity, segments of our community often find themselves cloistered in subsets based on synagogue affiliation, country of origin, family dynamic, or geography. The inherent danger in this seclusion is that we run the risk of losing site of the larger community and what binds each of us together. In 5778, let us be reminded that we are not simply a group of people who happen to be Jewish, we are the Jewish People, and we’ve been together for generations. We were at Sinai together, we established the State of Israel together, and we’ve built our current Nevada Jewish community – together. It is this collective memory that binds us as much today as it has throughout our history. It is not about “Who” we are (i.e. orthodox, reform, east side, west side, gay, straight), but “What” we are…a link in the biblical and cultural chain that is the Jewish people!
In the coming year, 5778, may we heed the blast of the Shofar and, as our ancestors did, ingather as one people. Let us remember the ties that bind us, not the differences that may drive us apart. May we come together to honor our past and to ensure a bright future for our community.
Happy New Year, may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!
!וְתֵּחָתֵמוּ תִכָּתֵבוּ טוֹבָה לְשָׁנָה