Where Are You?
Most people familiar with Jewish tradition will tell you that the Jewish New Year commemorates the creation of the world. And they would be vaguely correct. More specifically, the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, on which we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, correlates specifically with the sixth day of creation. On that day, God completed the creation of the world with his final act: the creation of man (Genesis 1:26-31).
According to Jewish tradition, a lot happened on man’s first day of life. Not only did he meet his spouse, he also had his first run-in with God when he and his new wife ate from the forbidden tree. Adam and Eve try to hide from God when they realize what they have done, but nothing is hidden from the Almighty.
What does God say to them in the garden? “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God already knows the answer. His question really is, “Where are you spiritually?” In other words, God was saying, “Somewhere in-between the time that I created you and now, you veered off the path of righteousness. Take a look at where you are and find your way back.”
Repentance in Hebrew is teshuvah, but the word has other meanings as well. Teshuvah means “to return,” and it also means “answer.” This is because our answer to God’s question, “Where are you?” is to return to the path of righteousness. This is repentance, and repentance is a central theme of Rosh Hashanah.
Ever since the first Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year has been a time of deep introspection. We are given the opportunity to change and evolve. From all of God’s creations, humans are the only ones who have the ability to reflect on their lives and do something about it. And when we do take those steps to make our world a better place, we raise humanity up to a higher level.
That’s why we celebrate the New Year, not with parties that leave us in a drunken stupor so that we forget who we are, but with introspection that leaves us knowing more than ever who we are.
Where am I? Who am I? What needs to change? These are the questions that we need to ask as the New Year begins, and we chart our course for the year ahead.