In total, the Jewish New Year holidays last for 23 days from Rosh Hashana through the end of the Simchat Torah holiday after Sukkot.
They often arrive just as we are getting back to our fall routines.
Many of the days are religious observance days, like a Sabbath, and those who observe them and follow the restrictions lament the disruption.
The holidays disrupt habits, routines, and momentum.
This is the point.
They are disruptive by design.
The month of Tishrei is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar.
In the Jewish cycles of time, the number seven is equated to rest:
- The 7th day of the week is Sabbath.
- The 7th month of the year is the month for rest and renewal.
- The 7th year in a cycle of years is the “shmita” year — a year of release, when farmers are prohibited from planting new seeds, in order to allow the land to rest.
This time is meant to be a time of reflection and introspection, a time to examine and evaluate our lives and confirm our direction and destination.
A reset for our internal compass and GPS system.
This is not possible while we’re rushing from one thing to the next, caught up in the habitual automaticity of busyness.
The holidays create a space for us to step back and reflect by forcing us out of our normal routine.
Collectively, they are a time for coming home to ourselves — to the truth of who we are, to our essence — the person we are beneath our habitual emotional, mental, and physical habits.
Sometimes you have to let go of what you know to find the truth.
You don’t have to be Jewish to engage in this process. In fact, if you study great leaders — both historical and contemporary — you’ll find that they all incorporate some version of this in their lives at some point in the year.
Of course, it’s understandable that when we feel disrupted we want to “get back to normal.”
The yearning to “get back to normal” is rooted in something fundamental to our survival:
Our nervous systems crave the safety and predictability of routine.
AND… “getting back to normal” misses the point.
Life is a cycle. Even as we return to the same place, we are not the same.
We begin each new cycle with the benefit of what we have learned the last time around.
At least that’s the idea. You’re always free to choose to ignore the lessons learned, but then you’re likely to keep repeating the same patterns.
Each time we begin again, we have the opportunity to make adjustments to what we were doing before. Sometimes those adjustments are big, external changes. Other times they may be small shifts.
What’s “normal” is constantly changing as we change.
We don’t “go back” because we can’t go back — life only moves us forward. If we’re trying to “get back” to what was, we will feel stuck and be in suffering.
Just as the trees stay rooted while shedding their leaves, we can learn to work with the disruptions, to find joy in the impermanence, and to create rituals that help us achieve stability within the uncertainty, to find calm within the chaos.
We can cultivate trust in our own resilience: in our ability to let go, weather the storms, and grow ever stronger from them.