A Good Sweet New Year
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
by Alexandra F. Taylor
At sundown on September 6th, a new year will begin. Marked not by fireworks nor television specials, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, will be toasted with apples, honey, raisin challah bread, and wine. Wine is universally celebratory.
The year will be 5782, and those of the Jewish faith, like myself, will enter what are known as the Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im), the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a time dedicated to reflection on the past year, reconciliation with those we may have wronged, and a release of disappointments that may plague us. If our burdens are particularly heavy, we might look to lighten them through acts of teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer), and tzedakah (good deeds or charity).
For many of us, September feels like the ideal time for a new year: the beginning of a new school year, a new league year, a new season. Each brings excitement, expectation, and a tabula rasa (a clean slate to begin or simply to begin again).
One of my favorite traditions in the time of the Days of Awe is that of Tashlich, a ceremony that gives cathartic physicality to freeing ourselves of our sins or shortcomings by casting pieces of bread upon a body of water. We can all feel such pressure to be perfect: the perfect friend, partner, mother, daughter, sister, employee, leader. We all have so many roles we play, hats we wear, and balls we juggle, and it is inevitable that we will falter. When I celebrate Tashlich, I meditate on when I have fallen short in my own esteem or in the expectations of others, reflect onthe shame I might hold from when my choices, attitude, or thoughts might not have been up to the standard to which I hold myself, and I release them on to the water. With each handful of challah crumbs tossed onto the Colorado River, I let them go and feel a sense of peace. I have done my best. And though it is a new year, I know next year will again bring bread to throw, because I am human. We all are.
I encourage everyone, regardless of their faith, to make time for their very own Day (or Days) of Awe. There is never a wrong time to reflect on the ways in which we can be our best selves while also holding the space and time to be perfectly imperfect. We should appreciate the inherent magic of each opportunity that arises, allowing us to make a choice in how we show kindness to those around us and to ourselves. Rabbi, philosopher, and civil rights activist Abraham Joshua Heschel sought to remind us of this very fact when he wrote, “There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious. Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time; to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year.”
We are in a difficult time in the world, the country, and even our hometowns. News reports alert us daily of the danger, injustice, destruction, and strife facing neighbors across the street and around the globe. Now more than ever, many of us feel called to respond, advocate, and assist in a way we never have before. It is up to us, if we feel called, to declare a personal new year and set a resolution to learn, to grow, to challenge ourselves or even to question our own beliefs. Each hour offers a chance to grant grace to ourselves and all that we meet and the opportunity to be the change with our passion, purpose, and progress.
Our League is fortunate to have membership representing a diversity of cultures, many of which have their own new year celebrations throughout the calendar year. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, which will be celebrated in November, is also the new year for the Marwari and Gujarati communities. Hijri New Year, observed in August, marks the start of a new year in the Islamic faith, and February brings the Chinese New Year and Seollal, the Korean New Year. While the dates vary and our styles of celebration differ, it is the universality of our humanity and a new year’s promise of renewal and hope that continually unite us.
A customary greeting for Rosh Hashanah is “shanah tovah u’metukah” שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה which roughly translates to “a good sweet new year.” That is my wish for you all.
May this new league year be good and sweet, and may every hour be endlessly precious.
Happy 5782, y’all!