A Reflection on Rosh Hashanah

Transgender Jewish educator Yiscah Smith wishes that un this forthcoming new year we may all have the opportunity to partake much more from the Tree of Experience and much less from the Tree of Judgment


I’ve been reflecting on the theme of judgment during Rosh HaShanah and its relationship to the “mitzah of the day” – the blowing of the Shofar. I’ve been aware of a stirring within to reach a new understanding, to hold a new intention and to experience a new way to embrace this two day sacred moment in time.

We commonly refer to this holiday as Rosh HaShanah – the head or the beginning of the year. The Jewish tradition teaches that this is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, hence each year we pause to acknowledge the birthday of the human being.

The Torah refers to this day as Yom Teruah – The Day of Blowing the Horn (Numbers 29:1). Traditionally the Blowing of the Horn expresses the yearly coronation of God as King of the Universe.

The Oral Law applies the name Yom HaDin – The Day of Judgment (Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1,2 and Talmud Rosh HaShanah 16b). This is because on the very day that Adam and Eve were created they transgressed the prohibition not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God judged them and expelled them from the Garden of Eden so they would not then eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. Among the other punishments, perhaps the most severe was the introduction of mortality (Genesis 3:22-24). Every year since, God judges each human being on this same day and decides whether or not to continue blessing that individual with life — or not.

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