By Chaplain Barry R. Baron
Special to the Daily Herald
"You stand here this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God – your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer – to enter into the covenant of the Eternal your God..."
These stirring words are read each year at Jewish services throughout the world at the approach of Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah, literally "Head of the Year," is the holiday that marks the beginning of the year in the Jewish liturgical calendar. Beginning this year on Friday evening Sept. 18, it is a two-day holiday which opens an especially holy season, the Ten Days of Penitence.
These begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During these days, God and the Jewish people draw especially close to each other.
Jews are directed to search their souls, to understand the good and the bad they have done during the past year, and to seek ways to improve in the coming year.
At the same time, God is looking inside each individual, judging the merits of our actions and intentions.
Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is understood to be the anniversary of God's creation of the world. As such, it begins a time of reawakening of the spirit, a renewal of commitment to live according to God's intentions.
The biblical commandment for this day is to sound the Shofar, the horn of a ram, summoning Israel to repentance. A delightful custom of the holiday is to eat apples dipped in honey, as we wish a "sweet year" for ourselves and our loved ones.
On Rosh Hashanah, we Jews associated with the military, along with other Jews around the world will stand (and sit) together, in larger numbers than usual, renewing ourselves and our commitment, to God and to each other, as Jews throughout the world have done from biblical times to the present.
The message to the people, contained in the words from Deuteronomy quoted above, was that all of them, and all who would join them, share in God's covenant with Israel.
The message of Rosh Hashanah is one of reawakening to this covenant, with all the blessings and all the challenges that it entails.
As we go forward into the new year, may we be blessed to find anew the meaning of that covenant for our own lives, and may we be privileged to share that covenant with our fellow Jews wherever we find them.
To all of our friends and neighbors, we extend the wish that, in the coming year, there will be goodness and sweetness in our lives, and that, with God's help, the world will become more peaceful.
Rabbi Barry R. Baron is the 353rd Civil Affairs Command Chaplain, United States Army Reserve. He is on TDY at Fort Hood for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days in between.