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Counting Down to Rosh Hashanah

For me, living in two civilizations means that they inform one another. When I blow my New Year’s Eve party horn in the winter, I remember the echoes of the shofar in the fall.

I love a New Year’s resolution. And I love that Judaism offers us four New Years—Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Tu B’Shevat, and Pesakh. Four New Years—of relationship, of the calendar, of the trees, and of liberation. With each of these experiences we start over again, count time from the new beginning.

A year since a family member and I began talking again.
A year since I gathered here with my community and feared and dreamed of the year ahead.
A year since the trees blossomed and bore fruit, shade, bounty.
A year since we last got truly free.

Rabbi Mordechai M. Kaplan teaches us that the Jewish people live in two civilizations. This is best explained by the fact that we have two calendars: the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hodesh Elul might be coming, but it’s in the middle of August on the 23rd. Which fresh start is the true one?

Living in two civilizations for me means that the answer is “yes.” I add to my four New Years a fifth, the Gregorian new year that begins January 1, that I mark alongside my family and friends, that connects me to the strangers in a bar in Galway, Ireland, counting down to 1 and kissing, that connects me to my friends in California doing the same many hours later. I count all five New Years, all five fresh starts.

A few years ago I brought a December 31st New Year’s party blower to my mother’s Rosh Hashanah table. It’s all the same ritual, right? Am I cheapening my family’s Rosh Hashanah by connecting it to January 1? For me, living in two civilizations means that they inform one another. When I blow my New Year’s Eve party horn in the winter, I remember the echoes of the shofar in the fall. When I bang on the table at the end of my Passover Seder, I remember the joy that I danced in the new year in January.

When I make teshuvah, I am making New Year’s resolutions.

Ariana Katz is rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, graduating in the spring of 2018. She is a queer white Ashkenazi femme 4th generation Philadelphian who sees rooted ritual and radical organizing as her Jewish legacy. Ariana was the creator and host of Kaddish, a podcast about death and identity (kaddishpodcast.com). She is a ritual maker and ruckus organizer, and has taught learners ages 3–93 for over a decade. Ariana has served as a volunteer chaplain at Planned Parenthood and currently sits on the Planned Parenthood board of Southeast Pennsylvania. Ariana is training to be a soferet, scribe of sacred Jewish texts. arianakatz.com.

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