Sunday, September 16, 2012

ROSH HASHANA: CHANGELING

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The word "shana" in Hebrew means many things. It is most commonly translated as year, but it also has many deeper related meanings. Shana also means "teach,"and the word "mishna," the oral teachings, comes from the same root. Shana also means "change" or "transformation." In Hebrew, "leshanot" is the infinitive form of the word meaning "to change." So when we teach we are exchanging ideas, both student and teacher changing in the process.

The word for teeth, "sheenayim," also derives from the same root. Our teeth begin the transformation process, begin the changing of inanimate food into the very energy which animates us. That which was once matter of a certain provenance from outside of ourselves, some "other," now becomes a part of our very essence.

The word for tongue, "lashon,"also hints at this idea. Not only does the tongue aid the teeth in the digestive process, whose taste buds help avoid the fetid, the putrid and the rancid, but so too does the tongue form words, helping to change ethereal thoughts into the realm of action- into words, which are the genesis of action. And in Hebrew, the word "shoneh" means "different," apart from the norm by dint of change. Rosh Hashana, then, is often given short shrift by being viewed solely as meaning the "head of the year."

Passover, falling in the month of Nisan, is explicitly enumerated in the Torah as being more properly known as the head of the year, calling her "the first month." Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is literally called "the seventh month." So what should it then be called? How do we tie all these meanings of shana together to form a coherent, organic whole?

Rosh Hashana should be called "the beginning of changing." Just as nature begins to change with the changing of the leaves and the change in the seasons, and school begins and new TV shows begin, so too should we learn to let go and to embrace a new beginning. Tishrei is the seventh month. Shabbat is the seventh day.

Shabbat, the seventh day, where we change into our heavenly spiritual garments, is mirrored in the seventh month, the month of spiritual transformation. All year long we are learning life's lessons. Each year we try to grow, becoming different and better people than we were the year before. We strive to accept change in life, in others and in ourselves. Only through forgiving ourselves and others can we take the first step in making these changes. Only through a renewed sense of responsibility to the covenantal idea, to the idea of mitzvah, can this change occur.

This responsibility to facilitate this process of change is the essence of the Torah's eternal challenge. But true change is very frightening. As they say, everyone wants progress, but no one wants to change. So the Creator Above understands this and helps us to change, giving us a forty day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur to help us to psychologically navigate the transformation. We cannot do it in one day.

The shofar we blow each morning during the month of Elul in this season of changing, itself epitomizes change. From originally being the instrument of animal warfare, of strife and contention, it will one day become the instrument through which we announce the Messianic Age, heralding the dawn of a new age of peace, love and brotherhood.

Shana Tova, the New Year greeting, does not only mean Happy New Year. On the deepest level it means, "Change for the Good." May we all change for the good, and choose life. Amen.


Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!