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​​Based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings. Adapted by Eliezer Ben Moshe


Contrary to the common presumption, the exact translation of the Hebrew words "Rosh Hashanah" is not "New Year." Rosh Hashanah actually means the "Head of the year."

sicha pix Indeed, the literal theme of "head" can be found in our traditional Rosh Hashanah food and customs, and is also expressed in the High Holiday prayers: "May we be as a head, but not as a tail." The Hebrew language, the Holy tongue of the Torah, chooses its metaphors very carefully. How interesting that Hebrew prefers to attach the physical anatomical term of 'head' to an abstract concept of time and year.

Chasidic philosophy teaches us that the intellectual faculties of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (Chachma, Binah and Daat ) are considered to be the 'father' and 'mother' that give birth to our emotions, which, in turn, animate and invigorate our action and deeds on the practical level. Just as the brain controls every nerve and every muscle in the entire body, so does the day of Rosh Hashanah contain the potential for life, blessing and sustenance for the rest of the year. The crucial point here is that Rosh Hashanah is not an entity onto itself. To live and to function properly, the brain must be connected with the rest of the body. Sever that connection, and we are left running around without a head.

The special holidays in the month of Tishrei serve as a microcosm of the entire year. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent the serious aspects of life, while Sukkot and Simchat To rah develop our capacity to celebrate and rejoice the rest of the year. Rosh Hashanah is no time for  lightheadedness. It is not just 'that time of the year again' to call the synagogue office to order tickets and mail out the greeting cards.

As Jews, we take Rosh Hashanah very seriously. The High Holidays require spiritual preparation and solemn prayer, coming closer to our roots and inner selves.

We realize that Rosh Hashanah is a rather heady matter. To make our "Good New Year" greetings be more than just a hopeful wish, let us back it up with firm personal resolve and commitment to be good and act good with Torah and mitzvos.

A New Beginning?

Unfortunately in this day and age, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur synagogue attendance often marks the beginning, as well as the end, of Jewish involvement for the entire year. Of course, it is important to attend synagogue and follow the services. But we must try to apply and connect the high emotional rush of Kol Nidrei and the lofty liturgy, with the reality and nitty-gritty of the rest of the year. The essence of the High Holidays is not only synagogue presence, but rather how it will invigorate and inspire us throughout the rest of the year.

Secret of A Good Marriage

High Holiday synagogue ceremonies are certainly impressive, but unless there is follow up, ceremonies can prove meaningless. A picture perfect wedding day does not necessarily make a good marriage. A good, lasting marriage does not depend on the caterer, the menu, the gowns, the music, the photographer or the weather. It depends on mutual love and respect and open communication between husband and wife, bringing home the bread, doing the dishes, diapering the baby, and all the daily   chores. Ethics of our Fathers teaches us: 'One Mitzvah should pull along another Mitzvah in its train.'

Rosh Hashanah can be compared to a giant locomotive that is pulling out of the train station. It is truly awesome and impressive to see the powerful engine all steamed up, huffing and puffing. But lo and behold! The locomotive is chugging all by itself, followed by nothing. Apparently, someone forgot to make a most important connection.

The other cars, passengers and freight, have unfortunately been left stranded, sitting back in the station and going nowhere. The duty of the locomotive, its very purpose and its raison d'etre, is to bring up the rear, and it has failed in its mission.

Let us allow the Rosh Hashanah message to hit home. As a practical way of life, Judaism connects the lofty abstract concepts to actual day-to-day mitzvos: a Mezuzah on the door, placing money in the Charity box, Kashruth in the kitchen, Shabbos candles on the table, and the Jewish classics on the bookshelves. Let us not allow our beautiful heritage to remain locked in the synagogue after the High Holidays, but rather welcome it into our homes and lives all year round.