It’s not a name; it’s a greeting, meaning “for a good year.” Happy new year to our Jewish brothers and sisters! It’s Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year in the Jewish culture. I was privileged to attend Rosh Hashanah services as a guest today of Beth Israel, West Temple, and really enjoyed the music, scripture readings and traditions that I witnessed.
Jewish folk show great reverence for the scriptures. When the scroll is taken from the ark, it is ceremonially uncovered and the rabbi and temple leaders parade with it through the congregation. Those who wish can touch the scroll with their prayer book or prayer shawl. It’s really cool to wear a yarmulke too, that little hat for men that shows reverence in God’s presence. I’ve always wondered how they stay on so well, but the one I borrowed stayed on just fine. If you’ve never been to a Jewish service, there are usually a box of yarmulkes at the back for those who don’t have one.
It’s a great experience to share in worship with those of other faith expressions. Our Confirmation Class will have that opportunity in the spring when they attend a Seder feast. I’m always reminded of how much we have in common with our Jewish forebears–Jesus, of course, probably attended Rosh Hashanah services just over 2000 years ago. The scripture readings this morning were familiar and comforting. Some readings were in Hebrew, but most in English. The prayers, like those in the Christian tradition, acknowledged God’s goodness and our need for repentence and a fresh start.
And then we were blessed, using one of my favorite benedictions. Maybe it will bless you today too.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may the Lord’s countenance be upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26