New Beginnings: 5 Lessons from Rosh Hashanah


New Beginnings: 5 Lessons from Rosh Hashanah
New beginnings are often needed in our lives and relationships - learn how from Rosh Hashanah

Have you ever heard the sound of the shofar? Its sounds is one that you would remember, whether the short blasts or the longer sustained blast that goes on over many seconds. This ram’s horn sounds one hundred notes a day during Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is very different than the American idea of New Year’s celebrations (December 31-January 1). The focus is on God’s sovereignty and the original creation of humanity, the sealing in of good for the coming year (which some will still use the time until Yom Kipur to make things right) and refocusing for the new year (casting off sins and wishing for a sweet new year). So, in relationships, how can you learn about new beginnings from looking at Rosh Hashanah?

  1. When a new beginning is important enough make sure you set aside enough time for it. Rosh Hashanah, in most modern places, is celebrated over two days (described as “one long day”) as there is some question about exactly how to calculate the date so two days ensures that it is observed on the right date. Additionally, in addition these days are really set aside to focus on their celebration with increased time spent in worship and work being avoided on these days. When you are trying to observe a new beginning in your relationship, you also have to set aside enough time for it and not allow other things to interfere with your focus.
  2. New beginnings require you to be focused in turning away from what was not right. Some following the Jewish practice of walking to a flowing body of water and symbolically casting off their sins by emptying their pockets (which they may have filled with pieced of bread) into the water. When you are trying to have a new beginning, you also need to set aside those things which you have been engaged in that have not been right whether these are attitudes you have had towards your partner or things that you regularly do. While not essential, having a little ceremony to help you act out this can help you maintain your resolve later.
  3. New beginnings are most likely to be successful if you have a positive outlook on the future, even if it is seen through the somberness of the change. Those celebrating Rosh Hashanah often eat apples and honey as symbols of the sweet new year.  There is also an understanding that this goodness is something that will come about because of something greater than themselves and is hoped for as a blessing from God. When you are trying to have a new beginning, it is important to look into the future expecting the good that will result from the change but also recognizing that this is a gift that you will be able to receive. Sometimes, you focus on the things that can get in your way, so don’t forget to focus on the sweet goals you are moving towards.
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The Rev. Christopher L. Smith

Marriage and Family Therapist

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT has served as a national leader around mental health issues both within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in professional counseling organizations.  He works directly with individuals, couples, families and supervisees as the Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom in New York City.  He also brings his insight to help a wider audience through writing, speaking and consultations.

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: LAC, LMFT, LMHC, MDiv
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Forgiveness, Spiritual
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