Shana Tova – 5784 – שנה טובה

This year, Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year, begins Friday evening, September 15. Rosh Hashana, literally “head of the year”, is the start of the year 5784.

This year is unusual in that the holiday coincides with the weekend.

As I have explained over the past few years, Rosh Hashana is very different from the celebrations marking the arrival of January 1; it is a time of reflection and introspection, reviewing the past year, and looking ahead to the next.

The first month in the Jewish calendar is called Tishrei and it is filled with holidays and what should properly be termed Holy Days. Rosh Hashana is on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei (September 16-17); Yom Kippur is on the 10th (September 25); Sukkot runs from the 15th to the 22nd of Tishrei (September 30 – October 7); and, the holidays wrap up with Simchat Torah on the 23rd of Tishrei (October 8). The first two days and last two days of Sukkot are special days of observance. Combined with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, there are 7 holy days in the next month, all but one (Yom Kippur) taking place on a weekend this year.

There are some years (such as last year) that the holidays fall during the work week, meaning that observant Jews need to take up to 7 days away from the office over the course of one month. I remember starting work for Bell Northern Research in Raleigh, North Carolina just after Labour Day in 1987. On my first day at work, I informed my new boss that Rosh Hashana would be taking place a little over two weeks later and I would not be at the office on those two days. Fortunately, Yom Kippur was on a Saturday, so I was only taking two days, not three. It was an interesting conversation to have as a new employee, since I needed to be clear that I wasn’t asking for the time off; I was informing him clearly that I would not be in the office on those two days. I was firm, and we worked it out. I’m not sure the world has improved a lot in making reasonable accommodations for religious observance.

Most years, there are large numbers of Jewish students worried about missing classes early in the school year, or new employees who don’t share my confidence in arranging for time off for religious observances. Please try to help your employees, your colleagues, your students, by making those conversations more comfortable.

Over the course of a year, the journey we travel often takes some detours, presenting challenges along the way. It is rarely a smooth, incident-free trip. Sometimes, it feels more like we are riding a roller coaster. Still, we press ahead, continuing to approach each day with a positive outlook, moving forward one step at a time.

The greeting you may hear is “Shana tova”, wishing you a good year. May the year ahead be marked by good health, by personal and professional growth, and may it be a year of peace for all of us.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו
May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.
לשנה טובה ומתוקה
May you enjoy a good and sweet new year.
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