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Happy New Year! Happy Peace Day!

September 21, 2017

While most of us celebrate the New Year on January 1, this is merely the calendar year. Other cultures recognize the New Year, the spiritual New Year, as taking place at the time of the Fall or the Spring Equinox. 

For example, the Chumash in Ventura County saw the cycle of life as coming to conclusion at the Fall Equinox and celebrated the harvest that would take them through the colder and darker days of winter.

Some 5,000 years ago, the Jewish people switched from celebrating the New Year in spring to fall to assimilate better with the Babylonians. According to “The Secret, Multicultural History of Rosh Hashanah” published today in The Daily Beast by Jay Michelson,  the Jewish New Year used to be celebrated in the Spring a few weeks before Passover. (Below is a song by Jewish singer songwriter and sage Leonard Cohen that draws from a traditional prayer).

Like other New Year celebrations, Rosh Hashanah is a time of forgiveness, introspection, and reflection about the past and contemplation about the future.

Regardless, the seasonal changes from Summer to Autumn and Autumn to Winter and Winter to Spring and Spring to Summer are times to celebrate — and reflect.

And what better ay to start of the New Year than with the International Day for Peace?


According to the Jewish Journal,  “real prayer calls attention to the real world, the happenings outside the sanctuary of one’s comfort zone: in the sobering suffering of the public square.”  This is a call to action to see the suffering and to commit to alleviating it: “This year, we look out the windows of our sanctuaries and confront our world. We look out the windows to see a world torn by suffering and hatred. We look out the windows to acknowledge pernicious public policies that propagate bigotry, oppression and racial and ethnic supremacy upon the most vulnerable among us —­ the proverbial “ foreigner, widow and orphan.” 

Rabbi Soffer urges us to allow our spiritual guides to “provide meaning and strength for what in the year 5778 surely will be a fierce, urgent and critical fight for the values of truth, justice and peace…As we approach this High Holy Days season, while we practice the inherently introspective tradition of cheshbon ha-nefesh, “taking account of our souls,” be prepared to look out the windows.”

What can we do to participate in the peace process? This is an important question to reflect on today… and here are a few quotes to inspire our contemplation.

Today my students and I are going to Art City, 197 Dubbers Ventura, where we eat apples with honey and we will take time to reflect on what problems we seek to solve with our actions this semester and that we will write about in research papers and in projects. (Read more about Rosh Hashanah food and wine).

Lots to think about…

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