The Importance of Being New at Rosh Hashanah

 Genius: (n) the tutelary spirit of a person, place or institution.

 At sundown yesterday, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year started. I always felt that it was part of the genius of Judaism that they had the wisdom to start the new year when the children go back to school. (Yes, yes, I know they decided to do that long before there even was school.) It’s just that for my whole remembered life (starting at the age of 3) the new year started in September when school opened.

Eaglebrook School had a tradition (do they still?) that the opening assembly of the new year ended with the declaration: “You are new.”

It seems my computer needs the same thing—I just went to Google, typed in “forgiveness,” got the “You are not connected to the internet” message, and noticed that for some inexplicable reason my computer could not find my Wifi. Stymied and annoyed I went back to writing in hopes that time would cure what was ailing it, but my inability to satisfy my curiosity became increasingly distracting. Now I can’t write. Time for me to restart the computer.

Ah ha. I needed to restart “airport.” I’m back, and guess what I was reminded of: a) yes, restarting is important and b) forgiveness is an important part of starting over. (Yes, Yom Kippur is coming.)

Perhaps my computer acts like this because it was designed by humans, but I actually think it is in the very nature of knowing. One thing we know about brains is that for best results it is important to press the reset button from time to time.

Yesterday, I was right in the middle of writing a difficult paragraph when a car pulled up in front of the house and a little girl, her mother and grandmother got out and came to the door. I had to stop what I was doing, go to the door and talk with them.

I have learned, however, that this is not a problem. In fact I have learned that it is always a gift. On the way back to my office to resume writing, a new idea came to my head that resolved the dilemma I was experiencing before the doorbell rang.

Twenty years ago an experienced builder who was building a cabin with me, put his hammer back in his toolbelt and said: “Stop every fifty minutes and admire your work.”  We did. We sat under a tree with bottles of water and chocolate chip cookies and just looked at what we had done so far. After a cookie or two I said: “Wouldn’t it be smarter if we started the next row of shingles on the left instead of the right?”

“Good idea,” he said. “You just saved us about 20 minutes worth of work.”

“No. You did,” I said, and we went back to work.

When we send our children off to school in September something we could say as they head out the door for school besides “Be good,”  is, “Be new.”

In fact, we could say it off and on all year long. If your child comes to you stuck on a math problem another thing you could do besides joining the struggle with him is to say: “Let’s go for a walk.”

L’Shanah Tovah


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9 thoughts on “The Importance of Being New at Rosh Hashanah

  1. Thank you so much for this post! You are so right. Tonight I am trying to finish our league volleyball schedule and I am struggling a bit to make everything “fit”. I took a little break, and ended up coming across your post. I smiled and nodded my way through it. Starting each day with the words “you are new” is something I am going to start with my students. Thanks for that.

  2. Thank you so much, Marci. YOU made MY day. It is so nice to know that when these words fall in the woods, they make a sound.

  3. Actually, it was God’s idea to begin with — the whole idea of the Sabbath is to take a break and renew the mind, spirit and body. Unfortunately, in our 24/7 society, nobody but car dealers really does that anymore. It’s too bad.

  4. Working on Wed, Thur,and Sunday NYT cross-word puzzles, I usually get to “I am totally stuck”, one or more times. I am amazed that nearly always “coming back to it later” in the evening or next morning almost always leads to progress.

    For tests and math contests, I’ve always advised “Don’t get hung up on any one problem. Skip it and come back later.” Worked for me! I hope that I had some students had the discipline to disengage and move on.

    The brain really appreciates it when we give it a chance!

  5. Beautiful Article .. Rosh HaShanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei. Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year.


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