Where Are You?September 18, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of Sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts’.” — Leviticus 23:24
Most people familiar with the Jewish New Year will tell you that it commemorates the creation of the world. And they would be vaguely correct. But more specifically, the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, on which we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, correlates with the sixth day of creation. On that day, God completed the creation of the world with his final act: the creation of man.
A lot happened on man’s first day of life. Not only did he meet his spouse, he also had his first run-in with God when he and his new wife ate from the forbidden tree. Adam and Eve try to hide from God when they realize what they have done, but nothing is hidden from the Almighty.
And what does God say to them in the garden? “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). But God already knows the answer. His questions really is, “Where are you spiritually?” In other words – somewhere in between the time that I created you and now, you veered off the path of righteousness. Take a look at where you are and find your way back.
Repentance in Hebrew is teshuvah, but the word has other meanings as well. Teshuvah means “to return,” and it also means “answer.” This is because our answer to God’s question “Where are you?” is to return to the path of righteousness. This is repentance, and repentance is a central theme of Rosh Hashanah.
Ever since the first Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year has become a time of deep introspection. We get the chance to evolve the creation called man. From all of God’s creations, humans are the only ones who have the ability to reflect on their lives and do something about it. And when we do take those steps to make our world a better place, we raise humanity up to a higher level.
That’s why we celebrate the New Year, not with parties that leave us in a drunken stupor so that we can forget who we are; rather, we celebrate with introspection that leaves us knowing more than ever who we are.
Where am I? Who am I? What needs to change? These are the questions that we need to ask as the New Year begins and we chart our course for what is to come.