Jews will celebrate one of the most important days on their calendar, Rosh Hashanah, at sundown on Friday, September 18. Rosh Hashanah marks the new year and starts the Jewish High Holidays. This year, many Jews will not attend synagogue on this special day for the first time ever due to COVID restrictions.
Judaism is filled with wonderful stories. Before I share one with you, a bit of background: the Jewish text the Mishnah explains that on Rosh Hashana, God will sort people into three groups, inscribing the names of the righteous in the Book of Life (meaning they can go to heaven), inscribing the wicked in the Book of Death, and for those in between, granting them a 10 day reprieve to mend their ways before Yom Kippur which ends the Jewish High Holidays.
So here’s the story (sourced here).
One year, Rosh Hashana fell out on Shabbat, and Rabbi Levi Yitzhak went to the front of the synagogue to lead the congregation in prayer. Before beginning, he looked heavenward and said: “God, today is Shabbat. You taught us in Your holy Torah that Shabbat may only be broken in order to save a life. I demand that you keep the laws which You gave us. Since writing is a prohibited act on Shabbat, You have no right to record anybody in the Book of Death. You may only break Shabbat to record all of mankind in the Book of Life!”
This story recounts much about Judaism. It’s attention to the law (Torah); it’s emphasis on reasoning; the sacredness of Shabbat (the Sabbath); and, most notably, it’s willingness to challenge God to a degree and frequency not found in its sister religions of Christianity and Islam. Judaism is a religion of reasoned argument and this includes arguing with God.
May you have a sweet new year and be sealed in the Book of Life!
The shofar, a ram’s horn is sounded on Rosh Shanahah, announcing the specialness of the new year.
By Lilach Daniel – Flickr: , CC BY 2.0,