Rosh HaShanah תשפ״א 5781 – September 2020.
Week of 19-26 September 2020.
Torah portion: Gen. 21:1-34 Haftarah: 1 Sam. 1:1-2:10


And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. (Lv 23: 23-24).” On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.” (Nb 29:1).

The people of Israel, from time immemorial, guided his lives based on his own logic that made him unique in history. We learned that he cycles of life is governed by eternity. On the one hand it is God who marks the cadence of events, on the other hand the people are the visibility of God in history. The Shabbat is par excellence the time for God when it marks the rhythm of weekly life, it is the moment when the Creator invades the creature giving the people the possibility to experience the eternal; in sequence, we have other moments throughout the year enriched by celebrations such as Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah-Kippur-Sukkot and Hanukah.

Now we celebrate Rosh HaShanah, which means the head of the year. The Bible does not mention Rosh Hashanah’s feast, as we can see in the texts cited above. It is designated as the day of sound the Shofar. It is the moment of the individual and the people as a unit. The Shofar means paying attention: the people and God are attentive; the people speak and God listens. Rosh Hashanah’s Shofar recalls the lamb sacrificed by Abraham in place of his son Isaac. The main reading of that day is the narrative of Isaac’s Akedah, which represents from Abraham as from his son Isaac, tied on the altar of sacrifice, the breaking of the ego and submission to divine sovereignty. The liturgy teaches that God is the King of the Universe, Melek. According to tradition, in Rosh HaShanah the world is judged. God judges the individual and the collective as the Psalm (33:15) says: “He fashioned their hearts alike; he considered all their works”. That is why the entire people of Israel are invited to reflect. As no one is just before God, and it is only He who judges, it is necessary to live the days that begin now until Yom Kippur with confidence in the mercy of God, but doing Teshuva, is the privileged time to turn to God. It is an occasion for self-examination and present before God all evil thoughts, all evil actions committed and all evil done during the year that ends. But it is also the day to remember the graces received from God during the year. According to the Sages of Israel it is the day that God’s mercy forgives sins that could be the cause of the destruction of the universe. In this time of epidemic that affected all of humanity, the teaching that make up the celebration of Rosh HaShanah is very current, stating that we are God’s creatures, dependents creatures and it is only in good relations with others, as brothers and sisters, children of the One God, that humanity can find the source of life. It is time to wait and wish for a better new year. Shanah Tovah and blessed to the people of Israel and to all humanity!

Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965).

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Br. Elio Passeto, NDS – Israel


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