Last week we celebrated Rosh Hashono, the Jewish new year. I've always thought that celebrating the new year at the same time, more or less, as the beginning of the new school year made a lot more sense than starting in the middle of winter, but on the other hand, it seems kind of odd to be starting up just at the time when the growing season is over. I suppose the best time to celebrate a beginning might be in the spring, but after the summer is over, there is definitely a sense of getting back down to business that makes Rosh Hashono feel, to me, like an appropriate starting point for the year.
Though the Jewish new year is, in pretty much all respects, a much more serious affair than its secular counterpart, the one aspect the two holidays share is that sense of starting over with a clean slate that leads to resolutions. In the Eastern European Jewish tradition, there's an actual ritual for that process, called tashlikh, which is Hebrew for throwing or casting away. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashono (or any time before the end of Succot, in some traditions), we go to a place of moving water (rivers or oceans) and cast bits of bread, representing our sins, into the stream so that we can be cleansed of them.
This was not something my family did when I was a child. In fact, I first encountered it when I attended services at the place where some of my stepchildren were going to Hebrew School. It seemed kind of fun, and a good excuse to go on a frequently sunny afternoon and be by water, which is something I always enjoy, and sing one of my favorite songs, but I can't say it felt particularly meaningful. In more recent years, when we've celebrated the days of awe in Hawaii, going to do tashlikh led us to discover the beauty of Ala Moana Beach Park, which we had previously seen only from the road, and spend a quiet time with the surf and sea life. But the best iteration has been what we do with some of our grandchildren.
While the concept of sins didn't seem appropriate, we figured that all kids over the age of 1 understand the notion of bad behavior, or behavior that makes mommy and daddy upset. Over the last few years, we've thrown away whining, not cleaning up the playroom, pushing siblings and a variety of other pre-school "sins." This year, the kids threw away "bad behavior," being messy, and nightmares. And I threw away impatience and despair. It felt very liberating. As I watched the chunks of bread float merrily down the stream and listened to my grandchildren shouting with excitement over something they had found in the water, I felt peaceful and content, and happy to be starting this wonderful new year.
May we all enter this new season full of peace and a sense of adventure.
A hui hou.