While it’s true that things are changing all the time, intentional change is a process.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year offers a roadmap for creating intentional and sustainable change.
Language: What does Rosh Hashana mean?
First, a bit of language.
The literal translation of Rosh Hashana is “head of the year.”
Rosh = head and Shana = year.
The word Rosh in the context of a month or a week also means the beginning. The beginning of the month, which coincides with the new moon, is rosh chodesh. Sunday, the beginning of the week, is yom rishon. Rishon means “first.” It’s root is rosh.
As I explained previously, the word shana also is the root of the word that means “to change.”
Using that definition, Rosh Hashana means “the beginning of change.” Looking at the holiday from that perspective, I got curious:
What does the “beginning of change” mean? What elements or steps can we extract to give us a roadmap for how to create sustainable change?
3 Steps to Beginning a Change
I often talk about the ABC’s of change: Awareness Before Change.
Rosh Hashana introduces two other elements that also fit the ABCs of change.
Here are 3 aspects to the beginning of change:
Before we can be aware we need to be awake. Most of us are sleepwalking through life, wrapped up in the fog of busyness, meeting expectations, and getting things done. We go through our days on autopilot, relying on our habits without considering whether they are serving us.
We are generally not aware because we are not awake.
On Rosh Hashana the sound of the shofar startles us out of our sleepy trance. The Shofar is an alarm, a wakeup call that cuts through the noise and creates a silence in which we can hear the still, small voice of our inner wisdom.
The wail of the shofar is like a cry from within our souls, asking us to stop and notice. The shofar always signals something that is about to come. It is our clarion call to awareness.
We can’t change something that is not in our awareness. This is why it’s more difficult to break a habit than to create one: habits are in our subconscious.
Whether you want to change a habit or effect change in a society, you must first bring awareness to the behavior or issue that requires change.
On Rosh Hashana, we pause to review our lives as we prepare to stand before God in judgment and account for how we have lived. As we prepare our case for trial, we have the opportunity to revisit our values, reset our direction, and recommit to living our truth.
Before we can implement change, we need to advocate for that change. On Rosh Hashana we are called to court before God, asked to make the case for why we should live. We must be willing to advocate for ourselves, to take a stand for our lives.
Rosh Hashana rests on a premise that we are all capable of change, if we desire to change. No matter what we have done in the past, we can reset the course and start fresh. We get the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. But we must advocate for ourselves to get that opportunity.
This is a day when we are called to claim our worthiness to receive God’s Grace. We are called to be an activist for our own awakening.
Another Perspective on The Head of Change
Another idea is a play on words. Rosh Hashana literally means “head of change.”
This speaks to where change often originates: in the mind: thoughts, ideas, imagination.
We think about where we want to go and what we need to do. We get an idea. We cultivate a vision.
As we’ll discuss in part 2, however, the head isn’t what creates or sustains change. It’s just where we start.