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Rosh Hashanah guide for the perplexed, 2022

Based on ancient Jewish Sages
More on Jewish holidays: Smashwords, Amazon

The evening of September 25, 2022 will launch Jewish New Year of 5783.

  1. Genesis. Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year is celebrated on the 6th day of Creation, when the first human-being, Adam, was created. Adam is the Hebrew word for a human-being (אדמ), which is the root of the Hebrew word for “soil” (אדמה) – a metaphor for humility. Moreover, the Hebrew letter הis an abbreviation of God, the Creator.

The Hebrew word Rosh (ראש) means first/head/beginning and Hashanah (השנה) means the year.  Rosh (ראש) constitutes the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis (בראשית), which is the first word in the Book of Genesis.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei – “the month of the Strong Ones” (Book of Kings A, 8:2) – when the three Jewish Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the Prophet Samuel were born.

Tishrei means beginning/Genesis in ancient Acadian. The Hebrew letters of Tishrei (תשרי) are included in the spelling of Genesis (בראשית). Furthermore, the Hebrew spelling of Genesis (בראשית) includes the first two letters in the Hebrew alphabet (אב), a middle letter (י) and the last three letters (רשת) – representing the totality of the Creation.

  1. Self-examination. The root of the Hebrew word Shanah (שנה) is both “repeat” and “change.” Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה) constitutes an annual reminder of the need to enhance one’s behavior through a systematic study of one’s track record, re-studying moral values and avoiding past errors.  Rosh Hashanah ushers in the Ten Days of Repentance, which are concluded on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

The New Jewish (lunar) Year is the only Jewish holiday, which is celebrated upon the (monthly) appearance of a new moon, proceeding from relative-darkness to a fully-illuminated moon in the middle of the month.

  1. The Shofar (a ritual ram’s horn). Rosh Hashanah is announced and celebrated in a humble and determined manner, by the blowing of the (bent, thus humble) Shofar, the horn of the humble and determined non-predator ram.

The Hebrew spelling for Shofar שופר)) is a derivative of the verb to enhance and improve שפר)), enticing people to persist in the eternal voyage of improved behavior

The sound of the Shofar was used to alert people to physical challenges (e.g., military assaults). On Rosh Hashanah, it alarms people to spiritual challenges, while paving the potential road to salvation. It serves as a wakeup call for the necessity of cleansing one’s behavior.

The Shofar represents “peace-through-strength,” as demonstrated by the peaceful ram, which is equipped with powerful and deterring horns.

In ancient times, the blowing of the Shofar was employed to announce the (50th) year of the Jubilee – the Biblical role model of liberty.

The Jubilee inspired the US Founding Fathers’ concept of liberty as inscribed on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

The Biblical Jubilee also inspired the US Abolitionist, anti-slavery movement.

The English word Jubilee is derived from the Hebrew word Yovel, a synonym for horn-Shofar.

  1. Listening to the sound of the Shofar, and to fellow human beings, is a major virtue of human interaction and education. The Hebrew root of “listening” (אזנ) is the same as the root of scale/balance (מאזניים), which is the zodiac sign of the month of Tishrey (September-October), when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are celebrated. The same root also applies to the Hebrew word for “ear” (אוזנ), which contains the balancing mechanism in our body.
  2. Commemoration. The 100 blows of the Shofar during Rosh Hashanah commemorate (in an attempt to strengthen the attachment to the roots of one’s identity):

*The creation of Adam, the first human-being;

*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac, which was prevented by God’s angel and a ram;

*The receipt of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai;

*The tumbling of the walls of Jericho upon re-entering the Land of Israel, which was facilitated by the blowing of ram horns;

*Judge Gideon’s war against the Midianites, which featured the blowing of ram horns;

*The reaffirmation of faith in God, the Creator (“In God We Trust”).

*From despondency (the destruction of the two Jewish Temples and the resulting exiles) to fulfilled optimism (the Jewish ingathering to the Land of Israel);

The 100 blows of the Shofar are divided into three series, commemorating the three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the three parts of the Old Testament (the Torah, Prophets, Writings) and the three types of human beings (pious, mediocre, evil).

According to King Solomon, “a triple-braided cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes, 4:12).”

Wishing you a healthy, challenging and rewarding year

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Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2023

More on Purim in my eBook: Smashwords, Amazon

  1. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows in Nuremberg (Newsweek, October 28, 1946, page 46). On October 16, 1946, ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged (just as the ten sons of Haman were hung in ancient Persia).

Julius Streicher’s ranch served as a camp for young Jewish Holocaust survivors on their way to Israel, one of them was the late Eliezer Cotler, the grandfather of my son-in-law.  While reading books at Streicher’s library, he noticed that the Nazi war criminal had a collection of books on Purim, with red ink underlining all references to the fate of the Amalekites and Haman.  Streicher assumed that the origin of the Aryan race was in Persia, with a connection to the descendants of the Amalekites, who were the worst enemies of the Jewish people. He believed that Purim documented the fate of the enemies of the Jewish people; hence, Streicher’s yell: “Purim Fest 1946”.

  1. Purim’s historical background:

^A Jewish exile to Babylon and Persia was triggered by the 586 BCE destruction of the 1st Jewish Temple and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria by the Babylonian Emperor, Nebuchadnezzar.

^Persia replaced Babylon as the leading regional power.

^In 538 BCE, Xerxes the Great, Persia’s King Ahasuerus, the successor of Darius the Great, proclaimed his support for the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Jewish Temple and the resurrection of national Jewish life in the Land of Israel.

^In 499-449 BCE, Ahasuerus established a coalition of countries – from India to Ethiopia – which launched the Greco-Persian Wars, aiming to expand the Persian Empire westward.

^Persia was resoundingly defeated (e.g., the 490 BCE and 480 BCE battles of Marathon and Salamis), and Ahasuerus’ authority in Persia was gravely eroded.

  1. Purim is a Jewish national liberation holiday – just like Passover and Chanukah – which highlights optimism and the transition of the Jewish people from subjugation to liberty. It is celebrated seven days following the birth and death date of Moses – a role model of liberty, leadership and humility.

Purim is celebrated (evening of March 7 – day of March 8, 2023), when the cold and stormy winter shifts into the upbeat, warm and pleasant spring.

  1. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th day of the Jewish month of Adar, which ushers in happiness. Adar is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir (אדיר), which stands for the adjectives glorious, exalted and magnificent. It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism).
  2. Remembrance is at the core the Purim holiday. The Scroll of Esther – which narrates the Purim saga – is also named The Book of Remembrance.  The pre-Purim Sabbath is called The Sabbath of Remembrance (זכור), commemorating the deadly threat of the Amalekites  (the ancestors of Haman), who aimed to annihilate the Jewish people following the deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
  1. Queen Esther is Purim’s heroine. The Scroll of Esther is one of the 5 Biblical Scrolls, which are highlighted on Jewish holidays: Song of Songs (Passover), Scroll of Ruth (Pentecost), Lamentations (the 9th day of Av – destruction of the Jewish Temple), Ecclesiastes (Feast of Tabernacles) and The Scroll of Esther (Purim). Esther (Mordechai’s niece or cousin) symbolized the centrality of women in Judaism, as did Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah (the Matriarchs), Miriam (Moses’ older sister), Batyah (who saved Moses’ life), Deborah (the Prophetess, Judge and military leader), Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and Yael (who killed Sisera, the Canaanite General).

Esther was one of the 7 Biblical Jewish Prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther (Megillah tractate of the Mishnah, 14:71).  Sarah lived 127 years and Esther was the Queen of 127 countries.

The name Esther was a derivative of Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of beauty and fertility, as well as Stara, the Persian morning star, which is a symbol of deliverance. The name evolved into Aphrodite and Venus, the Greek and Roman goddesses of love, beauty and fertility. The Hebrew word for Venus is Noga, which is a Biblical divine light and the second-brightest star after the moon.  It is the name of my oldest, very special granddaughter.   The Hebrew name of Esther was Hadassah, whose root is Hadass, which is the Hebrew word for the myrtle tree. The myrtle tree features prominently during the Feast of Tabernacles. It is known for its pleasant scent and humble features, including leaves in the shape of the human eye.  Greek mythology identifies the myrtle tree with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

  1. Mordechai, the hero of Purim and one of the deputies of Ezra the Scribe – who led a wave of Jewish ingathering from Babylon to the Land of Israel – was a role model of principle-driven optimism in defiance of colossal odds, in the face of a super power, and in defiance of the assimilated Jewish establishment. The first three Hebrew letters of Mordechai (מרדכי) spell the Hebrew word “rebellion” (מרד). Mordechai did not bow to Haman, when the latter was the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire.  Mordechai was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau. Mordechai was a descendant of King Saul, who defied a clear commandment to eradicate the Amalekites, sparing the life of Agag, the Amalekite king, thus precipitating further calamities upon the Jewish People. Mordechai learned from Saul’s crucial error and eliminated Haman, a descendant of Agag the Amalekite, thus sparing the Jewish People from a major disaster.  The aim of Mordechai who became the chief advisor to the King of Persia – was to alert the assimilated Jewish community of Persia, that forgetfulness and detachment from their Jewish roots would lead to oblivion, while the attachment to historic and religious roots is the foundation of growth, security and respect by fellow human beings.
  1. Purim’s (פורים) Hebrew root is “fate” as well as “casting lots” (פור), commemorating Haman’s lottery which determined a designated day for the annihilation of the Jewish People. It also means “to frustrate,” “to annul” (הפר), “to crumble” and “to shutter” (פורר), reflecting the demise of Haman.

More on Purim in my eBook: Smashwords, Amazon

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