Rosh Hashanah, aka the Jewish New Year, is the big one when it comes to the Jewish calendar. It literally translates from Hebrew to mean “Head of The Year,” commemorates the birth of the Universe (no biggie) and the birth of Adam and Eve, and is basically the Opening Gala of the Year of Jewish festivals.
Rams horns called shofars are blown like trumpets, apples are dipped in honey and devoured, and the whole festival is imbued with a sense of Possibility, of waking up to Newness, and starting over.
Like many Jewish festivals, it starts in the evening as the sun sets and lasts 48 hours, taking place over two days. Depending on levels of religiosity, people will attend synagogue services on one or both days of Rosh Hashanah. If you grew up in suburban north London as I did, and attended synagogue, it also most likely heralded the time you went annual clothes shopping for the season.
On a Soul level, it kicks off a ten day period of reflection known as the Days of Awe or the ten Days of Atonement. This culminates with Yom Kippur, the day of fasting where as Jews, we traditionally cleanse our mind, souls and spirits, and “atone”for anything we’ve done wrong over the previous year, and where we are in essence are given the opportunity to apologize for your “sins”of the previous year.
If you’ve ever seen your Jewish friends making blanket statements on facebook around this time, apologizing to anyone for anything they’ve done intentionally or unintentionally the past year – this is why. They’re essentially prepping to get into the Jewish book of life at the culmination of the ten day period. Tradition says that it is during the Days of Awe that it is written who will live and who will die in the upcoming year. It is often phrased thusly, ‘On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed.”For many, the high holidays marks a time to focus on one’s actions and behavior, in order to get the good scorecard for the rest of the year.
As one of the founders of 10Q, I like to look at it a little differently.
Over the years, as I’ve pondered many of the Jewish festivals and acts that Jewish people engage in during the year. I sense an invitation to engage in activities of reflection and connection and community that are incredible for every human on the planet, regardless of religion.
And like so many things, as humans, we tend to engage in what is considered good for us; when there is a person or deity in power telling us we must engage in it in order to satisfy their requirements/ get into heaven/ stay alive etc. The higher the stakes, the more likely we are to adhere to them.
Whatever the ultimate motivation, the invitation is ultimately an invitation to nourish the Soul — to take some time, to go inside and to ponder how the last year has gone in our lives, and what we would like the next year to look like.
In adulthood particularly, when the sense of newness and excitement of a new school year is gone, a sense of marking time and seasons and taking time to take stock of our lives is an important foundation for a sense of a purposeful life. It is one of the ways we give our lives meaning.
It’s why we created 10Q — 10 days of daily journal prompts, five looking back and five looking forward. At the end of the ten day period, you hit a magic button and your answers get sent to a private locked vault, only to be returned to you the following year.
When Ben Greenman, Amelia Klein and I conceived of the idea we had no idea that it would become an activity that tens of thousands of people of all faiths and beliefs from all over the world actively and some would say religiously engage in every fall.
Some folks choose to share their answers on a public website, and scrolling through, is a very specific kind of gift – a chance to hear peoples’ internal, uncensored dialogue relating to aspects of the Soul and the world around them.
It is the opposite of Facebook and perhaps strangely, in the authenticity that people show up with — often detailing self-perceived failures or mistakes or great pain — one’s sense of humanity and faith in existence itself is strengthened. We are all bonkers, we all have deep fears and feelings of inadequacy, and we are all, in essence doing so much better than we realize.
Nicola Behrman is the founder and creator of 7OM Alchemy, an online portal for creative magic and miracles. She is the resident energy alchemist and spiritual sage at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California, and travels the world leading guided meditation journeys, officiating ceremonies and sharing sacred sounds