Featured in local papers on Thursday, September 6, 2001. Copyright 2001 by Yosef Y. Polter

Rosh Hashana: Beginning - or Head - of the Year?

The first two days of the Jewish year are called Rosh Hashana, accurately translated as "Head of the Year."  Wouldn't "beginning" be a better description than "head"?

In truth, the Jewish new year is much more than just a beginning.  The word "head" has broader significance: its meaning includes but is not limited to "beginning." 

In Hebrew, the holy tongue, every word the sages used was by design.  Hence the choice of words to describe these two days as the "head" instead of the "beginning" is not coincidental.  Rather, a powerful message lies herein. 

The head, indeed, is the first part of the body formed at the conception of life.  Throughout gestation and on through life the head continues to be the control tower, the program room of the whole body.  It governs movement and automatic bodily functions such as heartbeat and breathing. 

So too it is with the days of Rosh Hashana.  On the supernal level as well as the earthly level this period sets the tone and can have far-reaching effects for the months ahead.  On Rosh Hashana G‑d sits on His throne in all His majesty and sets the stage for the entire upcoming year.  Our potential for health, livelihood, peace, etc. are all preset on Rosh Hashana.  (The only thing that is not even slightly preordained is our behavior towards G‑d, others, and ourselves for which we are always given free choice.) 

Another way of looking at the influence of Rosh Hashana is: dealing with the bigger picture always brings a greater return than dealing with a detail.  Addressing the cause is always more effective than addressing the symptoms.  Analogously, Rosh Hashana addresses the "bigger picture" and therefore can have a greater impact on our lives.  Self examination, new resolutions, and commitments for betterment, done with sincerity at this time of year, will most likely have a longer shelf life and be more rewarding than resolutions at other times of the year.  The forty-nine hours of Rosh Hashana are very precious and should be greatly cherished.   

Let us use this time in a most productive manner through new positive resolutions for more deeds of kindness, patience, ethics, good values, and good morals.  May these positive improvements evoke G‑d's favorable response to grant us and the whole world a year of good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity.  May the A-mighty hearken to our prayers and may we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year.

High Holiday services at Chabad Center are free of charge.  We only ask that you make reservations since space is limited

Rabbi Yosef Polter is the director of the Chabad Jewish Center at 148 Great Road in Acton which serves Acton and neighboring towns.  For more information about the Center, its services, programs, and activities or for detailed information on the High Holiday services and schedule, please call (978)929-2513 or 758-8994 or visit www.chabadofacton.com.