Could it be that Rosh HaShanah is not a Jewish holiday? No—it couldn’t be! Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year. On Rosh HaShanah Jews gather in Jewish houses of worship and say Jewish prayers. We hold our Jewish books, and we blow our Jewish horns. We even take one day and turn it into two—a uniquely Jewish magic trick. And then there’s all the food—the round challot, apples and honey—all of the Jewish soul foods. How could I suggest that Rosh HaShanah is not a Jewish holiday?
Yet that’s my question, could it be that Rosh HaShanah is not a Jewish holiday? I have three arguments to make the case: 1) the readings on Rosh HaShanah, unlike on Yom Kippur, address universal themes of family life; 2) the title Yom Ha’Din, Day of Judgment, indicates a universal experience of all people who live at the same time, and are affected by each other’s behavior; and 3) this day recalls creation and anticipates redemption. The bookends of history indicate our collective understanding of the value and the challenges of life. Together, these three arguments indicate that Rosh HaShanah is not just for Jews, and we err if we focus only on our insular concerns today. Let’s unpack each claim: Continue reading