Rosh Hashanah The beginning of the Days of Awe

Long before Heschel, Jewish tradition suggested that humankind could take lessons in praising the Creator from the animals, vegetables and minerals.

September 6, 2018 17:21
APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination.

APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination.. (photo credit: SUFECO/FLICKR)


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WHAT FLOWS through your mind as you gaze up at the night sky? Wonder at the vastness and beauty of the starry carpet overhead washes over me every time I peer into the too bright city sky, or gaze up from sands of a still, dark desert. Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of our Days of Awe, lifts us out of our daily pursuits into weeks devoted to awe of the Creator of this wondrous cosmos. Jewish tradition teaches that Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of creation – specifically, the birthdate of humankind, the day that God completed the Creation of the world and handed it to us to inhabit and cherish.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-72) found the root of Jewish spirituality in the same kind of wonder that I feel as my eyes encounter the limitless night sky. Wonder – undiminished by the scientific understanding of the mechanics of the physical phenomenon – is the beginning of radical amazement, the sense that existence and our consciousness of it are suffused with mysteries we do not understand. This kind of wonder grows into the radical awe of God that inspires our prayer. Quoting the morning prayer, Modeh Ani (I Thank You), Heschel suggests, “The sense for the ‘miracles which are daily with us,’ the sense for the ‘continual marvels,” is the source of prayer….This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things.”


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