The high holidays, and Rosh Hashanah in particular, is one of my favorite times of the year. As a child, the school system in Israel always focuses on the holidays and the new year – making cards for our families, decorations for the Sukkah, learning the meaning of the holiday and the accompanying customs. With the proximity to the beginning of the school year, you can feel the focus on new beginnings, fresh starts, and many wishes. At home, there is a feeling of holiness and knowing that it’s a special time of year — the meal preparations, the festive clothing, and the changing breeze as fall starts to knock on our door (climate change aside...).
This year, it will be my third year away from my family in Israel for the holidays, and the heart is filled with longing, family memories, the memories of sounds, tastes, and smells, especially of my mother’s cooking and the traditional food. On the special table set for Rosh Hashanah, we find many different foods, and the tradition is to say a certain blessing for each, as it symbolizes a wish we have for the new year. Each blessing has its’ meaning, and I always try to think – How does this specific one fit my life today, at this time?
After a year and a half of Covid life, in which all of us transitioned, and still are, we had to close ourselves, shut ourselves off at times from people, to protect ourselves. All that was once exposed to the world remains now within the four walls of our home, and for most of us, only seen to others through a small box on the screen, and usually with a virtual background, so no one can look inside my home. We have all carried so much this past year – fears, missing our families, struggles, successes and creativity, loneliness, and sense of community. We had to explore ourselves with ourselves, almost like an opportunity to just be and reflect, to learn to be with ourselves.
The more I looked at myself this past year, I started examining the difference between being myself verses being with myself. I discovered what was most important to me, I identified my strengths and my weaknesses, my creative side, the caring and the discouraged sides, as well as things that were roadblocks in my work. Just like the outer layer of the pomegranate, my routine and all I am surrounded with in “normal” times almost prevented me from seeing all that is inside – so many seeds. Some are sweeter than others, some bright pink, others almost red, and sometimes, some are already going bad. But they are all my seeds. But it’s not just me as an individual. This past year we have gone through so many events, great and happy ones, others that shocked us to the core as a community and a society (be it here in the U.S. — in our backyard — or be it in Israel or other places around the world). All of these events, all of those people who were a part of the events, they are all seeds of our surroundings.
This time of year is one that gives us an opportunity for a fresh start, a time to reflect, atone, and to fix things to make life better. From the wishes we make on Rosh Hashanah to searching our souls (Cheshbon Nefesh) towards Yom Kippur, it is meant to bring us to a better place as individuals, as members of our small communities, of society and the world.
May it be that our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate – May we have many merits, may we embrace the diversity within us, may we carry our fellow “seeds” in our communities in the right direction, and may we find all the seeds that are inside of each one of us.