The concept of New Year, in the UK has always baffled me. It is culturally a time filled with celebration and merriment, and thoroughly lacking in reflection and answerability. It seems when we celebrate the New Year, we’re rejoicing in the passing of time, and shrouding what should be a time of contemplation and accountability in festivity. Allah says in the Qur’an ‘By the passing of time verily mankind is in loss, except those who believe and do good, and encourage each other to the truth and encourage each other to endurance’.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good fireworks display as much as the next gal, in fact I spent most of New Years Eve in search of the nearest town or city that had a fireworks display (Manchester City Council had cancelled the display due to lack of funds), however I feel we could learn a valuable lesson in reflection and atonement from the Jewish concept of New Year.
Rosh HaShanah, the head of the new year, follows the month of Elul; a month in which Jews are encouraged to blow the Shofar (a ram’s horn) once a day to spiritually awaken Jews from their ‘slumber’. In the first 10 days of the New Year Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year. In this way, Rosh HaShanah is all about making peace in the community and striving to be a better person.
This is followed by Yom Kippur, a solemn day in the Jewish calendar considered to be the most sacred day. Whilst fasting for 25 hours Jews ask God for forgiveness for their sins and reflect on the past year. Now it’s not all doom and gloom, traditions include eating apples dipped in honey, as a symbol of the sweet New Year that each Jew hopes lies ahead.
To me the celebration of the Jewish New Year embodies the understanding of the passing of time in the Qur’an. Imagine spending the days leading up to the New Year reviewing the past year instead of planning a party, and spent the following days seeking forgiveness from family and friends and strengthening the bonds between communities instead of recovering from the indulgences of the past revelries.
I can’t think of a more valuable way of ringing in the New Year.
Maryam Duale, Faiths Act Fellow