I have many-a-brilliant Uncles and Aunts. Two are devout spiritualists. One is a former Buddhist Monk and one is a Chasidic Rabbi.
This coming Sunday will be Erev (the evening before) Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, an incredibly succulent time to swim inside ourselves, removing sticks, stones, and deep-seated sediment that is blocking us from being at our most radiant.
It’s a time to celebrate the year ahead.
I asked each of my uncles about Rosh Hashanah and how it exists in each of their hearts.
My Uncle Steve (formerly Ajahn Santacitto) responded with dancing poetry and insights, and my Uncle Shalom (formerly Donald) is not yet sturdy on a computer and thus his incredible daughter in-law Chava shared some mind-bending thoughts about the New Year in writing.
Both talked about Tashlich. Tashlich is an age-old ritual that any person can do. To me it seems like a pagan ritual. I find it witchy and sexy which makes me like it even more. Tashlich occurs before Rosh Hashanah and all of the ‘High’ Holidays of the Hebrew month Tishrei. It is the literal throwing away of your sins, an empyting out of the things you are not proud of and things that weigh us down.
My Uncle Steve says he considers with gratitude how to bring forth into life and the coming year that which is beautiful. He suggests that we write down the following:
“…words representing what we are most grateful for: people, things, events etc. Then on the other side consider and write key words for the lovely things we’ve given back to life (deeds, words and thoughts), especially by giving to others. Then releasing all the goodness that has already been by ceremonially burning the paper; while doing so direct our gratitude towards what is yet to come, with the genuine intention that next year’s list will be even more lovely.”
Tashlich for my massive chasidic family in Jerusalem is,
“…all about symbolically shaking our sins out of our pockets and demonstrating to Hashem (Jewish God) that we have no inner connection to them. On Rosh Hashanah afternoon, we go to a lake (or, more commonly in Jerusalem where lakes are scarce , an aquarium), shake out our pockets and say various prayers including a recitation of Hashem’s 13 attributes of mercy. “
The other unbelievable thing I learned about the New Year from my religious family members, is that the holiday is purely a celebration and it’s meant for us to feel completely rejoiced within. Apparently, God (or maybe the universe) is going to decide for us what will happen in the coming year, and we need to dress in our best outfits to accept and celebrate how vulnerable of a time this is.
My Buddhist hero Uncle Stephen sees this time as a potent opportunity. He says that Rosh Hashanah “offers an opportunity for the roots of our spiritual life to be deeply nourished.”
Rosh Hashanah begins on the same day as the September New Moon every year. On this September 29th, comes the power to start anew and the urge to reflect on the year passed is aglow. We may be blanketed in unease at the waves of sadness, regret, or unease at the year behind us. Allowing the aches of it all to pass through us and stay in the past is a beautiful tradition.
If we have only marvelous things in our rearview mirror, then take this time of reflection and forward facing to be deeply grateful.
Whether Jewish or not, I invite you to manifest, with each bite of your Apples and Sweet Honey, the delicacies the Jewish people nibble on to represent a sweet new year, the deepest river of candied existence.
May we all radiate sweetness, whatever that may mean for you.
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