Finding Israel, Finding Roots on Rosh HaShanah
Every year as Rosh HaShanah arrives, Jews around the world come together for their annual commemoration of the birth of the world. We contemplate how this year’s celebration will be different than the year before, who will join us at our chag table for our festive meal, who we’ll see in shul that we haven’t seen since… well, the last time we gathered as a community.
We use this chag to honor our relationship with friends, family, our Jewish identity, and of course with God. We wish each other Chag Sameach and recite the same prayers, but often hope for a little something different in the coming year.
In Israel, the chagim (חגים) are a national celebration for religious and secular alike. The whole country becomes immersed in the spirit of renewal and of celebration, and schools, streets and homes are filled with the sights and sounds of the holiday.
n addition to whatever religious observance one might practice in accordance with these days, there is an atmosphere of joy as we gather together with our loved ones and eat the delectable dishes — ripe with tradition, symbolism and of course flavor — that embody the bounty of our ancestral land.
Every different style of celebration in Israel in some way honors the deep biblical roots that remind us of our belonging to the land in which we are living.
For Jews throughout the Diaspora, however, the emphasis of Rosh HaShanah is often devoid of this historical connection. There have even been articles and requests to eliminate references to Israel in their sermons or in family discussions on these holiest of days in the Jewish calendar, under the assumption that the only association possible is one of conflict and tension.
Indeed, the exact opposite is true. After thousands of years of living in exile, of praying for the return to Tzion, we should be reminded and should remind each other of the value of Israel and her meaningfulness in our lives every chance we get — as family, friends, as a community, bound together by our common connection to Israel in spite of the differences we may otherwise have.
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