>Why Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Celebrates Exceptionalism
Why Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Celebrates Exceptionalism
By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
Published September 28, 2011
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Wednesday, September 28 at sundown. Like most religious celebrations, the holiday is about many things, some better known than others, and many of them quite interesting for all people, Jewish or otherwise.
One of the lesser known themes of Rosh Hashanah is an issue over which Americans often argue – exceptionalism, the notion that a particular nation is unique and uniquely positioned to achieve a whole variety of accomplishments. The history of Rosh Hashanah shows us why exceptionalism is perfectly fine as long as we remain connected and committed to those who are different from us.
Rosh Hashanah begins what are called the “Ten Days of Repentance,” a period which concludes with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. So not surprisingly, themes of introspection, forgiveness, and hope for a year in which we do better than we did in the past all figure largely in the prayers and practices of the holiday.
The holiday is known for the custom of eating apples dipped in honey, symbolizing the sweetness which we hope the coming year brings. And of course, there is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram’s horn, as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Numbers 29:1). That’s where things get really interesting, and we see the ancient roots of the exceptionalism debate, which is really an issue for any people or nation that sees itself as special.