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In Israel, a Rosh Hashanah of Apples and Gas Masks

PJ-New Year-1

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, comes as early as it can this year on September 5 (lasting two days). It always falls on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, but since the Jewish and Gregorian calendars don’t match, Rosh Hashanah can also fall as late as October 5.

In any case, Rosh Hashanah (it literally means “head” or “beginning” of the year) comes with the onset of autumn or at least the dwindling of summer. It may seem an odd time for the year to begin; and Tishrei is, indeed, the seventh month of the Jewish year, not the first. The Jewish calendar, though, is marked by a certain defiance of nature: days begin at sundown, and the year begins when the natural year starts its decline.

Here in the Land of Israel, Rosh Hashanah is a time when the hot, bright blue of summer finally relents, permitting breezes and puffy white clouds. A time of apples and pomegranates, of kids going back to school, of stocktaking and renewal. The time when the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown in flat, eerie blasts in the synagogue, calling us to repent and get inscribed for another year in the Book of Life.