I’ve been going through a bit of a slump lately. I know there’s a push to get everything back to normal, but when I turn to the news, our world feels more apocalyptic than ever. Being a pastor, it is hard to pretend like everything is okay. Sure, everyone expects the Pastor to be okay and spiritually secure with any obstacle, but Pastors are still humans and not Jesus. We are all organic beings, with fragile bodies, minds and emotions. This Pandemic or as Texans like to call it, “the new normal”, is taking its toll on all of us mentally, physically and emotionally.
One day while I felt particularly lost for how to be energetic and charismatic when the pediatric units are full and the death toll has risen dramatically over the last month, I got an advertisement for Days Jewish Holidays by box. I have enjoyed Illustrated Ministry products for moderate Christian families, and here I could learn more about Jewish holidays with my family in a fun way, awesome! So, I signed up and started planning to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Monday, September 6th.
As I studied more about the holiday, I felt God giving me a “second wind” to face this next season, especially since Rosh Hashanah means “The Head of the Year.” One of the things I love about Jewish holidays is that there is always lots of preparation. I love preparation. Give me a task without a purpose and I will put it off as long as I can. But ask me to get prepared, and I’m ready to make my list and start the prep work! So, the first thing I did when I got my Days box was to make the cookies. All of the images for this holiday make me grin with joy! I didn’t have the right ingredients for the recipe in the box yet, but I did have a box mix waiting on my shelf. So Sammi(my 2 year old) and I made fish cookies! One of the sayings for Rosh Hashanah is “Be the head and not the tail,” so the celebration Seder feast has a fish head on the table! Therefore, it makes perfect sense to have fish shaped cookie forms!
If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that I have celebrated Christmas in the Czech Republic, where we had a fish dinner of Christmas Eve and a fish soup on Christmas Day, made from the fish head. Follow this link for an awesome picture of the fish head. So, even though I’ve never celebrated this particular holiday before, I get a feeling of nostalgia from the memories created at other meals with these unique foods. Czech Christmas bread also looks a bit like Challah, so there are happy triggers there, too!
This week I began my true preparations, first with the spiritual devotion. The whole month before Rosh Hashanah would be filled with the sound of the Ram’s Horn, baking(of course) and reflection on the past year. This has been critical for me, as I am in a time of self reflection and renewal. I’m always a fan of daily reflection and observation. Monastic practices help ground my faith, so I also felt this tug to recapture some of those practices like Ignatius’ Daily Examen.
The Days Box includes an awesome little book to take time for confessing of sins, identifying individuals with whom you need to show remorse or gratitude, and emptying out all the bad stuff from the last year. We have all said or did things we wish we could have done differently. Were they sins? It’s hard to say, but I know we could all benefit from a big serving of forgiveness and God’s patient and long-suffering love. Blame doesn’t help anyone, but responsibility helps us move forward. Was this or that my fault or your fault or theirs, who is to say? But we can all take the responsibility for working for justice, peace, grace and partnership in the future.
This practice of confession is called Return, Tshuva in Hebrew, and, like any call to repentance, it is a call to return to our creator. As we reveal our wounds, breaks and mistakes from the past year, our Master Potter reveals how we are still being formed in the womb of our community and the Divine Be-ing continues to prepare us for a future of Peace and not Destruction(Jeremiah 29:11).
Our journey has begun with a return to the beginning. May Holy God, Creator of the Universe, bless these celebrations and guide us to “head into the New Year with confidence, humility, and joy.