My Psalm 111
Vision and Rash Hashanah
Creativity is usually something considered only for certain people. “Those” people who take a vision and turn it into an original piece of art. “Those” people who are resourceful. “Those people who are talented. “Those ingenious people who look at a piece of paper, blob of clay, a piece of pencil, the twelve-stone of a musical scale and see or hear something else entirely. Wake up, world! Newsflash! We are all called to be creative!
Last night, in a Lutheran Church in a suburb of a larger city in one of the smaller and none geometric states of the United States of America (Most states are a geometric figure – think about it!), the first of ten days of sacred importance was celebrated. Now if you are Lutheran or Christian or even agnostic, you are probably going through the celebratory feast in your mind. Advent is roughly twenty-four days, give or take a couple; Christmas, eight; Epiphany, averages forty to forty-five; Lent, 40 days; Easter, fifty; Pentecost, roughly one hundred and fifty. Whatever could they be celebrating for ten days? Vision.
Wednesday began the Jewish period known as Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is Hebrew for “head of the world”. In today’s vernacular it is their new year celebration, commemorating the creation of the first two people of their faith – Adam and Eve. There is no fixed date for the two-day feast. It falls one hundred and sixty-three days after the first day of Passover. The Jewish calendar is a lunar-based calendar and yesterday signaled the beginning of the year 5775.
Rosh Hashanah launches the High Holidays, a period of holy days for those in the Jewish faith. During this time, they are called to repentance for past deeds but also to envision and prepare for a better future, consider how they might live better, improving their lives. These holy days culminate in the holiest of all Jewish days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, Judaism says God will decide whether to forgive and grant life for another year.
Rosh Hashanah, the phrase itself, does not appear in the Torah. References are found in Leviticus and the Psalms, however. “Zikhron Teru’ah” and “shabbat shabbaton” are phrases used to denote such anointed, holy days. Rosh Hashanah, the phrase itself, appears only once and that is in the book of Ezekiel. Etymologically, it is similar related to “Arabic Ras as-Sanah”, the Islamic New Year.
There are three stages to this observance of the Jewish ten holy days. It is believed that on Rash Hashanah, God will open the Books of Judgment which are for all mankind. Then each individual is required to pray and repent until the judgment is given on Yom Kippur. It is not a final verdict, however. There is faith and hope that one still has a chance for a positive outcome and that final decree comes for the Jewish believer on Sukkot. Sukkot or Sukkoth is an eight-day festival, agricultural in origin. The seven days of its festival were said to correspond to the then known seventy linguistic groups encompassing all of humanity.
The common greetings said to one another during Rash Hashanah all begin with the Hebrew words for the English phrase “May you be”. On the first day of Rash hashanah you will hear “Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah” which translates loosely into “May you be written for a good new year by God!” Then, after the two-day feast concludes, the rest of the holy days are greeted with “Chatimah Tovah” or “May you be judged for a good year by God”, again a loose translation. Then from Yom Kippur to Sukkot, the greeting is “Gmar Tov” which means (again a loose translation since I don’t really speak Hebrew and apologize to my Hebrew friends and readers if I mistranslate), “You you may receiving a good conclusion of God’s judgment.”
I don’t think it an accident that these greetings all begin with the phrase “May you be”. What a glorious vision that is! What a magnificent world it would be if we all lived by those three words – May, you, be! And it really doesn’t take a creative person, one of “those” people to see where such a vision could take us.
One can easily see how the culture of the time of the early believers in Judaism, the originators of the faith, could recognize the importance of each individual and their actions. The primarily agricultural-based society needed positive efforts from all. The farmers of the early cultures were the lifeline of the people. They provided the food; their crops were the future of the world, for without sustenance, all would die. Warring farmers destroy crops and have no harvest. In her new book, Joyce Meyer makes a simple sentence the absolute truth for the believer (of any faith) and foretells the future when she says, “You reap what you sow”.
A recent study found that, among the estimated six million Jewish people in the United States of America, only fifteen percent see the Jewish faith as the core of their heritage. Only twenty-five percent of Jewish in the Baltimore Maryland metropolitan area attend services ,which correlates to the national average of twenty-one percent of Christians attending church service.
In an article published this week, written by Jonathan Pitts and published in the “Baltimore Sun”, Reverend Timothy Feaser, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church explain this second annual unusual observance of Rash Hashanah which will be officiated by Rabbi David Greenspoon. “The idea is that our church does not belong to us; it belongs to God,” said the Rev. Timothy Feaser, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Reisterstown, where Greenspoon will officiate Wednesday night and at four more services between now and Yom Kippur, which begins on the evening of Oct. 3. “The question is, is sharing the facility pleasing to God? We’re convinced that it is.”
Creativity is described as being inventive, inspired, the inspiration of the talented. Rabbi Greenspoon and Rev Feaser are being creative in their resourceful approach to their living of “May you be”. They are sowing seeds of respect, of unity, of compassion, of oneness, or faith. They don’t have to share the same beliefs, only a commitment to the concept of peace, a concept whose harvest is to let each and every person…be.
We are all creative in our own way. Whatever great spirit you honor, wherever you walk, however you live, we all live a vision. That vision may include the next five minutes; it may include the next five thousand years. Whether your year is now the beginning of 5775 or simply going into autumn of 2014, whether on Oct 3rd, you will celebrate Yom Kippur or conclude a month-long fasting known as Ramadan and celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice which is celebrated by Muslims with a Hajji pilgrimage to Mecca…We all hope for a future. It is up to each of us to live, repent, and then live again a life of creativity. We will reap whatever we sow. I hope we are sowing seeds of respect, of peace, of life. Then only then will we meet the challenge of life, the need to greet one another and truly mean “May you be”.
My Psalm 111*
*Psalm 111 is one of the acrostic poems – poems whose lines begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Today’s poem offering has eleven lines, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet of my language.
Almighty Creator of all, seen and unseen;
Benevolence and glory are your covenant to us.
Comfort the weak and uplift us all.
Direct our steps, Great Spirit.
Everything sings of your greatness!
Forgive us our sins, known and unknown.
Grant us grace to honor one another.
Help us to walk daily in peace.
Inspire us minute by minute, O God.
Joy to all believers; respect of all of creation!
Keep us in your arms, O God, as we keep your words in our hearts.