Fall is almost here. I can feel the air changing temperature and moisture, and here in the mountains, the water level in the lake is lower, the flowers are bowing more than blooming, and the fox tail plants are beginning to sprout.
This is my favorite time of the year, for letting go, for shedding old skins, for remembering what really matters. And it is also the Jewish New Year.
This Wednesday evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. While it is a time of celebration, it is also a time for reflection and repentance. One of my favorite concepts about the Jewish New Year is the idea of starting with a clean slate. All past mistakes, hurts and transgressions are forgiven.
But, unlike other religions, it isn’t God that you ask forgiveness from. God forgives everything.
Instead, we seek out those who we have judged, or offended or hurt and we ask THEM to forgive us.
We begin anew because we have owned our actions and genuinely said I’m sorry to the person who we hurt.
Another ritual of the holiday is Tashlich, meaning cast off. We go to a body of water and, using bread crumbs, we symbolically cast our sins into the moving water. Again, we are claiming accountability for our actions, forgiving ourselves, and letting go.
And in doing so, we can move into the new year without the burdens and regrets and mis-steps of the past.
It’s a tradition to gather with family and friends and share a delicious holiday meal on Rosh Hashana. My family always enjoyed a many course meal: gefilte fish with salad, chicken soup with kneidels, my mother’s sweet, tender brisket with crisp, roasted potatoes, string beans with almonds, a sweet carrot mash called tzimmis, and honey cake, my father’s favorite, for dessert.
It’s also a tradition to eat apples and honey for the New Year. These sweet foods symbolize the sweetness we wish for ourselves and our loved ones in the coming year.
These are wonderful, powerful rituals.
Saying I’m sorry.
Making peace with the past.
Letting things go.
And opening up to the joy, the sweetness of what is and what else is possible.
Perhaps you’d like to incorporate some of these rituals into your life this week.
Maybe you will call a friend, or send a note and say you’re sorry.
Maybe you will take some bread crumbs to your neighborhood park and forgive yourself with each toss.
Maybe you will gather with loved ones and indulge in all the foods that taste like love.
Maybe you will dip a slice of apple in honey and open to the sweetness of your life.