Rosh Hashana – the time of Slichot and a chance for a change

The center of Tel Aviv, Thursday late evening, the weekend has begun, bars are full of young people and suddenly I see some of them turning to the synagogue. Some of them still holding their drinks in hands. Out of curiosity, I follow them. Why are they going there? Why to the synagogue? Slichot.

Asking for forgiveness. People want to start The New Year with a fresh account and leave the baggage of things they did or might have done wrong, behind them. In Judaism, the relationship with another man is as important as with G-d. So we ask for forgiveness each of them directly. We hope to be forgiven, and also want to forgive, often when it is not so easy to.

Rosh Hashana – tell me how you eat your carrot, I will tell you where you from…

Since I moved to Israel I have been fascinated with the diversity of traditions among Jews. An example of it is a carrot on The Jewish New Year’s Eve. I have been asking my friends and some strangers as well: how do you eat your carrot on Rosh Ha-Shana? Most of the people were surprised by that question, but their answer was really saying a lot about the tradition they grew up in or where their family came from.

If you grew up Ashkenazi, the answer is usually is: sweet, Tzimmes. In Ashkenazy tradition, most of the meals for Rosh Ha-Shana should be sweet to make the coming year as sweet. So we don’t only deep the challah and apple in honey, but we add honey to the carrot we eat on Rosh Ha-Shana, too. Sephardic carrot is not sweet and is a part of the Seder with many blessing – positive for us and negative, similar to Passover plagues, for our enemies.

A concept of thinking anything negative during the Rosh Hashana night, personally is hard for me to accept. But the truth is that around Rosh Hashana, we think not only of the positive side of life. When we want to give it a meaning and purpose, there are often rocks on its way.

Each year we renew our contract with G-d, for life and continuation of the cycle of the year, round like the challah we eat on the Rosh Hashana (in the Ashkenazi tradition it is round). Each year of our life journey we try to start something new. And as one of my friends recently pointed out, the word “shana” (a year in Hebrew) comes from the same root as “to change”. Hashem, or we, ourselves, give a new opening each year. And we ask slicha, to start it clean.

But Holidays are not just about traditions. Last Saturday night I participated in a demonstration against building a gas platform ten kilometers from the beach in the North of Israel. I do not like demonstrations, but I could not stay silent this time. Could I call myself a citizen if I would not care? Could I swim in this amazing sea, if I would not defend it? Among thousands of Israelis, I was standing for over three hours at the Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, saying that nature and health stand first before money. And that some things when they are done, are irreversible after. Crimes against nature are harder to be fixed and rebuilt than political mistakes.

When a few months ago people of Gaza, using kits on fire threw over the border, began to burn the South of Israel, the beautiful fields of flowers, agriculture, wild animals, I was asking: who does it to the Land he claims to love? And why the international ecological organizations stay quiet? Now I am asking the same about the gas rig ten kilometers from the beach. Why would one do it the Land he loves?

During the time of Slichot, would I be able to ask for forgiveness and say slicha to the future generations of Israel, if I would not defend its nature now? And could I wish Shana Tova, not standing by the Sea and the Land I have chosen to be my home? In my humble opinion, no.

It is not too late to make a change.

About the Author
By education, Basia Monka is a psychologist. In Poland, she has worked as a journalist, an assistant director, and a Jewish educator; In Israel, she was a travel agent and a searcher of the unknown in the future. Always, she is passionate about culture and traveling.
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