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So What Else Is New?

by Rabbi Israel Rubin

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Essays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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In honor of the Jewish New Year, let's try something new for a change! Actually, it's an old custom to welcome the New Year with a new fruit1  on Rosh Hashanah's second night. This is when we recite the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, thanking "G-d who has kept us alive, sustained and enabled us to reach this day."2

New on the Menu

Basically, this Rosh Hashanah custom requires only one new fruit. But the newest thing is to offer a selection of several new fruits, and some Holiday tables are adorned with a full cornucopia of exotic fruits.

So let us explore a new venue that will allow us to enjoy new insights without running up an expensive fruit bill. For even as we enjoy the array of papayas, caranuba and other fruit we hardly knew, our main High Holiday focus is not on new fruit, but on a new You.

"...And Now, the News!"

Rosh Hashanah really expects us to turn over a new leaf. The Shofar calls for an inner renewal, and in this regard, no news is not good news.

The quest for newness is as old as mankind, but people today are constantly snooping around for a new this and a new that, they don't realize that what's new now is old tomorrow. You don't have to be an ingenious Newton to know that 'New' is by its very definition, fleeting and temporary.

Rosh Hashanah really expects us to turn over a new leaf. The Shofar calls for an inner renewal, and in this regard, no news is not good news
New in Name Only

The term 'New' can be misleading, with places like Newport News, Nanuet, New York and Newark, New Jersey promoting themselves as "new" when they're really old as the hills. And can you believe that numismatists specialize in ancient coins?

Some humbly disguise themselves as 'old wine in new bottles,'3 while others resort to innuendo to hide their real age, like old ragged shmattes pretending to be next-to new!

Actually, we have more news on this page than the New York Times with all its minutiae and up-to-the-minute reporting!

Old News

Unfortunately, people today suffer from a serious newrosis, dumping good old values for tenuous fads that don't continue. Newer isn't always better.

Indeed, Coke once tried to be new, lost revenue, and had to revert back to the old classic. Indeed, most of today's newfangled gizmos come with built-in obsolescence, and entre-nous, even a brand-new car can become a major newsance. Let us therefore search for something that doesn't sparkle only in the showroom on the first day, and find a genuine new that enjoys long lasting tenure after the initial novelty wears off.

The New New

What is truly perpetually new is our timeless Torah; 'always new as the day it was given.' Take for example this beautiful interpretation from an old manuscript by the great Chassidic masters, the Besht and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad. It is as new and relevant today as when they taught it over 200 years ago:

"King David states: "Tik'u BaChodesh Shofar "4 Literally, this passage simply tells us to blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the date of which coincides with the beginning of the New Moon.

But the Hebrew word Chodesh also means 'new,' giving this verse a whole new meaning:

"Let the Shofar sound blow out the old blasé, rote and routine, and infuse us with a new dynamic spirit throughout the year."

Nu?!

An annual 'New Year' greeting that just keeps repeating itself year after year becomes an old cliché. 'New' alone isn't enough; let's try to be 'New and Improved!'

Instead of just changing our calendars, let us change ourselves, our deeds and our attitudes. And rather than continue insinuating nuances like a nudnik, let us return to 'Avinu Malkenu' Our Father, Our King.

May we soon merit to hear the great Shofar heralding the good news of the Final Redemption and Moshiach's long awaited arrival. This will usher in a new era of universal peace, prosperity and spiritual harmony, when 'G-d will renew our days as once before',5

Reprinted with permission from www.jewish-holiday.com.

Footnotes

  • 1. A 'new fruit' is a fruit eaten for the first time during that season.
  • 2. The Shehecheyanu blessing is also recited on the first night of Rosh Hashanah -- albeit without a new fruit. See "Is the Shehecheyanu blessing recited whenever lighting holiday candles?" . (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/693,2077641/So-What-Else-Is-New.html)
  • 3. Avot 4
  • 4. Psalms 81
  • 5. Lam.5

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shehecheyanu
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.