click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Three Ideas for Rosh Hashanah
Mom with a View

Three Ideas for Rosh Hashanah

Bringing down to earth the machzor's central ideas.


Everyone speaks about preparing for Rosh Hashanah. “Are you prepared?” (Are we ever? Is it something with a finite beginning and end?) “Are you preparing?” (Is it an ongoing process? Shouldn’t we be preparing our whole lives?) Are you done with your preparations?” (Did you make your menus and cook your meals?)

But it occurred to me recently (probably at about 3:00 a.m. which seems to be my “spare” time these days!) that in order to properly prepare, we need to know exactly what we are preparing for. What is Rosh Hashanah? What am I supposed to learn and understand and internalize on that day? And how do I get myself ready to do so?

Of course there are the physical preparations – the grocery shopping, the menu planning, the cooking. There’s that new dress that husbands are supposed to buy wives (and that daughters seem to think applies to them as well). There’s the setting of the table and the inviting of guests. These are not trivial. These are not minor. These are an essential part of the holiday. And they are certainly effortful.

But the real work is spiritual. The real work requires introspection and reflection. The real work demands exploration and understanding.

There are three ideas that are central to Rosh Hashanah – kingship, shofar and remembrance. It is the acceptance and internalization of these concepts that will be determinative of our Yom Tov experience. That is what I need to work on. I always tell my students that awareness is half the battle. Just knowing where I need to focus my energies helps shape and give structure to the day – and to my errant, chaotic thoughts.

But it’s not enough. I am going to pick one idea in each area to work on.

Kingship (malchut) means accepting the Almighty’s absolute authority. Whatever He says, goes. Whether it makes sense to me or not. In fact, if it makes sense to me there is a danger that I am acting in response to my own intellect and reason and not to the Almighty’s command.

Once I’ve used my mind to determine there is a God and that He gave us His Torah, then I need to subjugate my will to His. I can deepen my understanding of the mitzvot (commandments) in order to strengthen my observance of them and my connection to God – but not as a way of evaluating their importance or relevance. My intellect and my goals can’t share the monarchy with the Almighty. I am working on recognizing and accepting the fact that my intellect is only a tool in the service of my Creator.

What happens when we hear that shofar blow? It’s a very profound, almost primal experience. It reaches deep within us to access an innate place of hope and yearning. The shofar symbolizes redemption. It won’t always be like this. There is a better world coming. There is not need to despair. Whatever happens at the UN…

The Almighty will redeems us. The messiah will come. There will be a world of clarity and not confusion. This allows us to get up and face each day. The shofar reminds us never to give up, that no matter how bleak it seems, dawn is just around the corner.

And finally, remembrance. What does it mean that the Almighty remembers us? Was there a risk He would forget? It means we have a personal relationship with Him; He cares about each of us individually. Kingship can be (should be) a little intimidating. Kingship can be a little distant, a little awe-inspiring! Remembrance is up close and personal. The Almighty cares about me. He’s involved in my life. He’s interested in my good. He loves me more (much more) than I love my children. He wants my good more (much more) that I want their good. And unlike my all-too-human parenting, He’s never too busy for me, He never loses His temper with me and He never makes mistakes.

Everything that happens is custom-tailored just for me. Wow! Remembrance (zichronot) is to never forget that the Almighty loves me – imperfect, struggling (one foot forward, two steps back) me.

I’m going to try to take it all in – the fear, the hope, the love. What more could we ask for in the new year?

September 24, 2011

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Leah Selter, September 29, 2011 5:16 AM

God Love us no matter what .

I enjoyed this article because for the last few weeks I have been in a battle with a friend who is Baptist. She was insisting that I break one of our 634 commandments, have no other Gods Before Me. She was trying to quote"Save Me "unquote. I didn;t understand until she explained. Then I became extremely up set. Did ever give the impression that I was unhappy with my religion? I knew I hadn't. The arrogant and way she tried to do this was upsetting. She became furious with me because for every reason she gave for me to change my religion I gave her 5 reasons why I should not.. i felt very insulted that she would try this with me. I started to feel that all non Jewish people all felt this way. Then today I was shown a little light of hope. Sarah Palin sent me a beautiful message on Facebook wishing me a Happy New Year. It was such a beautiful note that may be this was Gods way of showing me that not all Christians feel the way my friend did. My last words to her was Don't try to fix me ,I'm not broken.It was very insulting to have someone say to me that if I didn't get saved I was going to Hell. I know I'm not perfect, but I try to do my best every day. I know God will always be there for me and my family. i know that Ashiem loves us all.

(3) shira, September 28, 2011 2:18 AM

thank you so will make my holiday more inspiring.i liked how you put the major pointsto think about for preparation for rosh hashana

(2) shani, September 27, 2011 8:38 PM

thank you

thank you - I can always count on you for an article that talks straight to my heart I really needed this article it made me feel normal in the hustle and bustle of erev yomtov, and helped me refocus on what and how to think about RoshHashana k'tiva v'chatima tova

(1) Lisa, September 26, 2011 10:00 AM

G-d is King... then everything else falls into place!!

Out of all the articles so far...this one has hit home!! Thank you.....Shana Tova....let's make it a great year!!!

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment