Our first observance, in Israel, of Rosh HaShana, the beginning of the Jewish new year 5775, has been nothing short of joyous!
We are living in a modest apartment on the edge of a Hassidic community. During these past four days, the streets have been totally bare of vehicle activity. People, men, women, children, young and old, families, have poured out of their homes, yeshiva's and synagogues and have filled the streets to walk, to visit and to play. The men are clad in their black suites and rimmed hats. The women are modestly dressed in their skirts, flat shoes and simple wigs as their head covering. The children are dressed in their best; the boys in crisp white shirts, black pants with tzitzit and black keepas; the girls in beautifully coordinated party dresses. This is how they play out in the street, in the playground, in the community squares, chattering happily all the while.
As day activities have made way for evening hours, well after sunset the open windows have allowed for the joyous sounds of celebration to reach our own open windows. Families gather to sing endless songs of exuberant praise, occasionally to be interrupted by the blowing of a shofar. Then we hear adult voices reading, reciting or praying in a staccato rhythm, that we pray will empty their souls of accumulated unrighteousness and refill them with the forgiveness and purity longed for. The new year is greeted with fresh energy and a new hope.