Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman: The start of a new year can be both scary and exciting – GoErie.com

Posted By on August 18, 2021

Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman| Special to the Erie Times-News

Jews celebrate the new year in much the same way as college students and public school teachers: in the fall. Our new year, called Rosh Hashana, is far more similar to the beginning of the academic year than it is to the secular new year. There is anxiety and trepidation about the coming year, like it was the first day of school, because we celebrate the day by reflecting on our past deeds and anticipating the future year to come. By comparison, the American secular tradition of New Year's is a bit different: We typically drink champagne, and then make a "resolution"to eat healthy or exercise more, which most of us struggle to keep.

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All of us Americans go into this fall, though, with trepidation and reflection. We reflect on what has been a hard, hard year. As of my writing, we have lost 616,594 Americans to COVID-19. The coming new year post-vaccine was supposed to be an exciting rebound, but an upswing in coronavirus cases due to the delta variant and the reality of having children under 12 unvaccinated has meant that instead of a resumption of life as "back-to-normal,"things feel strangely unsettled. Not normal. What was supposed to be a new year is, actually, the same as it was before. Uncertain.

The Jewish religious tradition believes that the month leading up to the Rosh Hashana, "Elul," is an auspicious time for self-reflection and reconnection. We are supposed to use the time to look backwards in order to move forwards. There is no "return to normal," but rather an understanding that we must look ahead and accept that we are constantly seeking a new normal.

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Fear is a natural part of that cycle. But so is celebration. We say prayers hoping that God will enter us into the book of life for the new year. And we also eat apples dipped in honey, because although we are anxious, we still celebrate the sweet new year that is upon us.

New is scary. New can also be exciting. We can be nervous and celebrate the new at the same time.

Reflections is a column by religious leaders in the region. Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman serves Brith Sholom Congregation, 3207 State St.

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Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman: The start of a new year can be both scary and exciting - GoErie.com

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