Here's To Another Year of Thriving
In Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashana is referred to by 5 different names.
Rosh Hashana literally means “Head of the Year”; Yom Harat Olam (The day the world was created); Yom Hadin (The day of judgment); Yom Teruah (The day of sounding (the Shofar) are all pretty intuitive given the nature and practices of the holiday. But what about the 5th name, Yom Hazikaron (The day of remembering)?
Why is the beginning of a new year a day of remembrance, and exactly what are we supposed to be recalling on this day? Reflecting on the year that has passed before we repent does seem like a good precursor to any judgment we are about to receive. But is there something even more powerful about memory that can help to get us in the right mindset for the start of the new year?
Consider the following questions. I think they will help you mentally prepare for Rosh Hashanah and the new year ahead.
Do you remember a time when you heard the shofar being blown? I do, as a young boy, being shuffled up on the carpet just below the ark to hear the rabbi sound the horn. Waiting and watching with some mix of curiosity and anxiousness as to whether he could complete the sounds before completely turning purple.
Do you remember a time when you tasted apple dipped in honey? I’m not sure I remember the first time, but I do know that each year a visceral memory emerges of a moment in my past when I tasted that same sweetness and invariably again find drops of honey on my chin, the table, and the floor.
Do you remember a time when you said “sorry” to someone? I’m not talking about the sibling or playground kind of apology, but that time when you gut wrenchingly had to admit fault and almost beg for forgiveness so great was the slight you caused to someone who you really cared about. Even as I type this the same pit in my stomach returns.
The past few weeks, the subject of memory and ritual has been present in our offices as we begin another school year filled with professional development workshops, conferences, and network meetings. Warm memories from our Jewish education help us create experiences and rituals that inspire and empower Jewish educators to help Jewish youth and their families thrive. When I speak with staff and sit in on workshops, I am constantly reminded how Jewish education provides learners with the capacity to be the best versions of themselves and help create a more just and equitable world.
In the coming year, my first year as CEO, I plan on making ample time for reflection, and some new rituals. With the help and support of Martine Fleishman, our new board president, Steve Goldberg, our new Chief Operating Officer, Susan Wachsstock, our new Chief Program Officer, and our entire staff, I have an amazing group to help me with this process.
So, as you take a moment to remember the year that has just passed, it is also worth reminding ourselves that the Rosh Hashanah rituals that you experience for yourself, and provide for others today, might also be the ones that provide memories for a lifetime.
And for Jewish educators especially, may 5780 be a year when we all create wonderful memories for our learners that will endure for generations.
Shana Tovah U’Metukah, have a happy, healthy, and sweet new year!
David Bryfman is the CEO of The Jewish Education Project.