I was speaking with a Lovett student who is Jewish. She was telling me she would be out of school for Rosh Hoshanah, the start of the High Holy days in the Jewish Tradition (which begin with Rosh Hoshanah and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). She then said “You know, If I was putting the whole thing together, I think I’d start with Yom Kippur and end with Rosh Hoshanah.” When I asked why, she said, “Rosh Hoshanah is like a party; Yom Kippur is so much more serious. I think I’d rather end on a high note.” “Well,” I said. “I don’t think there’s much chance of changing thousands of years of tradition in order to accommodate your wishes, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway!”
For a couple of thousand years, the Jewish faith has celebrated these holy days by starting with a festival celebration (Rosh Hoshanah) and ending with fasting, introspection and prayer (Yom Kippur). The beauty of these two holidays held in close proximity to one another is that they remind us how important it is to have both a sense of celebration as well as a call to self-reflection and personal growth. There is perhaps no better example of religion at its best: a call to both celebrate life while also prayerfully working to improve ourselves, our relationships with others and our relationship with God. The High Holy Days are a call to participate in both.
This year, as we recognize those who will be celebrating the High Holy Days of Judaism, may we remember to balance our celebrations (something we all do quite well) with a willingness to engage in some prayerful contemplation; and may the ability to do both lead us all to more fulfilling lives.