I was always fascinated by the Chinese New Year, especially since moving to New York. A few years ago Mirs and I went down to China town about an hour to late and missed the parade but the evidence of the festivities were in the streets. The main drags were still closed off to cars and pedestrians took them over. The people had smiles on their faces, there were people dressed festively and confetti in the streets. So many ways of thinking about things became altered and enlightened when I moved to New York.
As small and closed off as my city in Ohio is, in terms of diversity, I thought that the world ran pretty much as we did. We were Christian, we celebrated Easter and Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and New Years in big ways. I’d always seen Rosh Hashanah on the calendar but only knew that it always fell on a different day each year and sometimes it was close to my birthday. It wasn’t until this year, actually, that I realized that Rosh Hashanah was the start of the Jewish Year. My naive self assumed that the streets of Crown Heights, Williamsburg, and Ditmas Park would be filled with cheering happy Jews blowing horns, throwing confetti, and drinking champagne. Instead, we spent a quiet night with our Israeli friends, read from a siddur, and ate apples and honey.
As much as I’d like to think that I’d live my life according to the days and times of the Jewish calendar I live in a secular world. Rosh Hashanah was such an interesting time for me. I spent the evening in Temple and listened to words being spoken in a language I still do not understand. I listened to music that was different than the Shabbat music I was used to and read books on the importance of the day. It was my first Rosh Hashanah and I look forward to many more-I’m just excited that I get to celebrate New Years with a bang in a few days, too. I focused a lot of my thoughts for 5771 on what I wanted out of my spiritual life. I wanted to dedicate time to Torah study. I wanted to dedicate time to learning more. I wanted to learn Hebrew. I wanted to focus on observing kashrut, in my own way.
So here we are, a few days away from 2011 and I’ve been doing a decent in job 5771. While my Torah study has faltered, I’ve been reading a lot of books on Judaism, Jewish Prayer, and God. I received Basic Hebrew from Amazon and it’s downloaded onto my iPod. I listen to it when I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. In terms of kashrut, it’s a work in progress. I was reading a blog from a new reader and in their last post they talked about resetting. That’s what the New Year is to me. I love the High Holy days for their significance as a Jew and I love them spiritually. I still have a picture in my head of a book that is opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed on Yom Kippur and it can only be described as awesome. The secular New Years is just that-secular. It has no ties, as far as I know, to any religion or even the turning of the earth in relation to time of year. We’ve already had our darkest day and the nights will get shorter and the days will get longer. For whatever reason it was decided that January 1st, instead of the solstice, would mark the beginning of the year.
I’ve stopped making resolutions that are empty because they lack merit or real meaning. Instead, taking a cue from my new friend, I’m going to reset and refocus on important goals in my life that I made for myself at the beginning of 5771. This journey towards Judaism and my life as a Jew, I’m sure, will be filled with overlaps of holidays both religious and secular. There will be hurdles for me to try to get over or perhaps realize that I cannot get through. And as much as I’m anxious and ready to hop into a mikvah feet first (which I’m sure is not kosher) I love this time of year because it gives cause for pause. Time for me to pause and realize that after I’m a Jew-in-Training, I’ll never be a Jew-in-Training again, I’ll be a Jew. Albeit a New Jew but I’ll be a Jew and I’ll never get to experience what this feels like again. So thanks, Heath, for reminding me to pause.