Shanah is a rich Hebrew word, meaning both REPEAT and CHANGE, as well as YEAR, of course. Isn't that ironic? Repeat and change seem like opposites. Rosh Hashana, then, means the beginning of doing it again AND the beginning of change AND the beginning of the year. In this time of pandemic we are doing a lot of the things we have always done (repeat) but in a new way and in a new context (change).
The restrictions of the pandemic have required us to reprioritize. What seemed superfluous (stopping at the store for 1/2&1/2) may now have been revealed to be essential (Will the food system be disrupted? Does my neighbor have enough to eat?). What we did as a matter of course and perhaps mindlessly may be long in the rearview mirror or important in a new way. We are all balancing our activity and our idleness, our social contacts and the need for isolation on a new scale of priorities. Our finances, plans for retirement, our relationships with our children or our parents, and our hopes for our future are all beset by the unknown. Yet we are who we are. Our self comes with us into the newness. Repeat and change.
Through it all, I continue to turn to the tools of our tradition to find solace, meaning and connection. How will I spend this day, these moments? What is important and life-giving? What words of the Torah and the siddur/prayerbook feel true right now, and helpful? Whatever tools we find - in Judaism, in our gardens and forests, in our families - we must find the way to follow what we need, what we value and what we sense to be true. Every day of unknowing is an opportunity to ask again: What do I want to repeat and what do I want to change?
I wish for you and me and all of us a time of gentleness and acceptance, a time of change and renewal, a time of humility and courage.