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 The concept of beginning a new year, of giving the new year a different number than that of the year just past, is an essential part of human nature. All human beings desire the ability to begin anew as well as to have an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and achievements. If we live in a constant cycle of time without the blessings of new beginnings, life would be depressing and almost hopeless. We would always be carrying with us the baggage of previous times and errors of judgment and behavior. It would be like having a book that would not allow us to turn its pages.

As such, we find that in all societies of humans that inhabit this globe, the concept of a new year has taken a strong hold. Original humans and many indigenous tribes and peoples did not have the concept of a yearly calendar. Time was an unending stream that knew no boundaries or limitations. Such a view of life and events limits one's ability to gain introspection into the behavior patterns of life and of entire societies. One of the great contributions of the Torah was to establish a calendar based on the measurement of time in terms of years, months, weeks and even days.
The author of Psalms taught us that we are to number our days so that we will be able to obtain a heart of wisdom. For without the ability to measure the passage of time, there can be little reflection or deep understanding of life’s events and a true appreciation of the learning process which life itself represents. Perhaps this is the basic lesson that the great holiday of Rosh Hashana teaches us. It marks a fine delineation in our life experience, and it points the way not only to a review of the past but also to a renewed commitment for a better future.
The sound of the shofar awakens us to the reality of the passage of time and challenges us to make proper use of this great gift. There are different notes that are sounded by the shofar, as they represent different experiences of past life and indicate the challenges that future life always encompasses. Human beings, by nature, are reticent to face up to past errors or to contemplate future challenges even though they are often predictable and many times unavoidable.
The nature of this great holiday is to counteract that reluctance and force us to have a realistic view of the past and future, to adjust ourselves to these realities and to create solutions that will enable us to overcome difficult problems in our personal and national life. The holiday itself is a hybrid creation of contentment, good food, family gathering and confidence as to our future. But it is also a day of awe and inner concern, of uncertainty and tension and one of deeply felt intense prayer. All these emotions, contradictory as they may seem and perhaps really are, are combined in our celebration of this great day that the Lord has granted to us.
There are many customs related to the holiday of Rosh Hashana that have evolved over the millennia. All these customs combine within them the two opposite emotions that characterize this new year holiday. We eat sweet food and honey and hope for a year of physical and spiritual renewal. Yet, we gather to cast away our sins in pools of water to symbolize the necessity for our self-improvement in the coming year. It is therefore a day of regret, though we do not allow such expressions to appear in our prayer service, for our focus is upon the future and not on the past.  But we are all aware that our past always accompanies us and reminds us of our strengths and weaknesses, of our potential and of our goals.
So, once again, the words of the Psalmist to rejoice in the trembling, accurately describes our feelings and emotions on this day of celebration and judgment. The majesty of the prayer service of this day is unmatched, so to speak, in all human expression. Contemplation and understanding of the service itself creates within us the mood and sets tone of the day, to encourage us to move forward in confidence into the new and blessed year that is now beginning.
Ktiva v’chatima tova
Chag Sameach
Berel Wein

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