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New Perspective on the New Year
By Chaim Lazer"Happy New Year to ya," Mr. O'Sullivan, my next door neighbor waved to me as I started on my way to the synagouge early in the morning.
Thank you, Mr. O'Sullivan, I answered back, "And the top of the year to you." I tried my hand at a half joke.
Mr. O'Sullivan lived next door to us for close to 15 years and was a warm and jovial soul. We enjoyed talking to him and he enjoyed being a maven of Jewish customs.
"Ah, it's nice to have an extra year to start anew! A new year, beginning a new month, too bad that ya can get yer calendar to start on yer first day too, huh?" he smiled in his typically friendly manner.
"Well," I sort of stammered, "it's not really the first month for us, you know it's, uh, the seventh month, if I'm not mistaken."
"Huh?" he sort of stared at me unbelieving, "Whatcha saying? It's not yer first month now? It's yer seventh? Come now, surely yer pulling my leg now!" He resumed his big smile. No one would put a joke over on him. He wasn't Jewish, that's for sure, but he enjoyed living in the Jewish area, and took pride in his knowledge in our religion.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm really telling you the truth, and that's the truth, Rosh Hashanah, the new year starts in the seventh Jewish month, the month of Tishrai. It's the seventh month in the order of the months."
He kind of eyed me, not knowing if I was pulling his leg or if I was really telling it as it is.
"You mean that you Jews start a new year in the seventh month? Come on now, what do you want to do that for? Ya got some tax advantage?" We both laughed at that and then he eyed me more serious, "What's the reason that you can't have the new year start in the first month like every one else?"
We stood there for a few moments, he eyeing me, to see if I could answer him, and me reflecting if I could answer him
"You have to understand, Mr. O'Sullivan, that there is a difference between Rosh Hashanah and the first month, which starts in Nissan, the month of Pesach."
He kind of stood waiting for the explanation, "Now yer not going on down to the synagogue, and leave me here wondering about you folks, are you?"
I could see that he really wanted to know. "Well there's an essential difference between the time of Pesach, when G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt, when he showed his love and kindness for us. Compare that to Rosh Hashanah, which isn't necessarily a Jewish New Year, because it's the day on which G-d created the world, which was before, long before G-d took us out of Egypt.
"So the New Year is a commemoration of the creation of the world and that's why the world is judged on that day - you too, Mr. O'Sullivan, it's your new year also! We are ALL judged on this day. Sort of like the government taking inventory at the end of the year in order to know what will be in order for the new fiscal year. Pesach, is really only for the Jewish people, and when G-d gave us Pesach he told us to number the months of the year with this month, since this is the start of the Jewish people as a nation, so the month of Nisan is the first month of the year.
"But we can't change the location of the Rosh Hashanah, since it has to do with the time that G-d created the world. Understand?"
He shook his head slowing indicating that he understood, and at the same time expressing his disbelief. "You folks always got some angle," he laughed, "don't you? So do me a favor and put in a good word or two fer me on OUR new year, will ya?"
"I only wish that I had someone to put in a good word for me!"
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