Exactly How Many New Years Do We Have Around Here?
For those of you who have been following my blog, I know that you have come to know that I prefer to write about the simple things in life. Usually I try to find something to make you chuckle or to make you look at life just a little bit differently. Every once in a while something monumental arises that I feel that I really want to address, but for the most part, I believe that life is tough enough and a little slice of humor or lightheartedness is the perfect escape.
On that note, we are now hosting our third foreign exchange student over the last six years. For those of you who have never entertained the thought of doing something such as this, I must tell you that it has been one the most rewarding experiences for not only myself, but my family as well.
Two of the young ladies were from Germany and one from Finland. Their knowledge of the United States and the American people come only from word of mouth from friends or siblings who have traveled here or what they have seen or read in the media or for that matter what they have studied in their schools. In truth, probably not a fair picture of arguably the greatest nation in the world.
Uniformly, the one thing that hits them first is that we are the land of excess. Shopping, restaurants, school of choice, freedom of religion and political views, police and fire protection all being abundant. Specifically they have the freedom of choice, far more options that they have ever known, and the ability to make choices without duress.
I must share with you how incredibly refreshing this is. Yes, “taking things for granted” is overused American slang to depict our laissez-faire attitude. It fits in well with our “sense of entitlement”. However looking at our culture paints a completely different picture when viewed through different eyes.
Spending a day going to Lafayette Coney Island for lunch, taking in a Tiger’s game and then having an awesome piece of pastry from the Astoria Bakery in Greek town takes on a whole new meeting when looked at through the eyes of a sixteen year old exchange student.
The reason I bring this up is that being of the Jewish faith, my family just celebrated the New Year. And yes it is a religion not a cultural background (I have no clue why Jews themselves site their religion when asked rather than their heritage). For those of you who never knew, I have Hungarian, Turkish, Polish and French Canadian ancestry. Yea, I know, that explains a lot.
While let me be clear, this blog is not about religion, it is about the spirit and message of the Jewish holiday. The celebration of the Jewish New Year is unlike many others in that it encompasses atonement and repentance as part of the ritual celebration.
For those of you, who are completely unfamiliar with the Jewish holidays, indulge me and I will take you on a thirty second tour….
Rosh Hashanah is commonly referred to as the “Jewish New Year.” It is observed on the first two days of “Tishrei”, which is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar (That’s why it never is the same day on the American calendar).
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the ritual High Holidays or “Asseret Yemei Teshuva” the (Ten Days of Repentance) which are days specifically set aside to focus on repentance and conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur.
According to Jewish tradition, it is said that God opens the “Book of Life” on Rosh Hashanah and will ultimately inscribe each person’s fate for the coming year on Yom Kippur. During the Ten days of Atonement Jews often try to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings.
Known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days of the year for Jews. Given that its central themes are atonement and repentance, Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 24-hour period (sundown to sundown) of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue or temple services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days
So, you ask what am I really getting at here.
For me, this is a time of reflection. No it’s not Thanksgiving and I am not going to bore you with all of the things I’m thankful for. It is kind of a reverse Thanksgiving if you will.
I look at my life over the last year and ponder was I good dad, was I the best husband I could have been. Could my friends count on me when needed and could my employer count on my best efforts? Did I make my parents proud and did I add favorable to my legacy.
Was I able to take the time to sit back, like the wonderful exchange students that we have had and realize all of the wonderful opportunities I have been granted. Have I been grateful and appreciative to those who provided me with them, or have I taken them in stride as if I was entitled?
Thank you all so much for following my blog. I hope that it has enlightened some of you, made a few of you chuckle and in some small way enriched you. Thanks for bringing me into your life. To those of you whose path I may have crossed this past year that did not leave you with a favorable memory of me, I certainly take responsibility for that and I hope that you allow me to make in right.
Take a moment in your busy life to stop and think about atonement and repentance. Think about that relationship you ended over something ultimately silly. The argument that resulted in hateful words that you wish you could have back. The really stupid thing you did that you so regret.
There is always time to correct them and make amends. The saddest person is the one who goes to his grave holding on to his anger and animosity.
Enjoy life my friends and all that it has to offer. Make peace and create joy and happiness. For those of you celebrating a very heartfelt “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).”