As we begin the New Year we should all take the time to reflect on these blessings and look forward to another year of remarkable success for Israel.
Why is Israel celebrating Rosh Hashana, the New Year, in the fall? You may answer that it’s because the Bible says so, but a quick look at the Bible seems to indicate that New Year’s should be in the spring. Exodus 12 clearly teaches that the first month in the Jewish ritual calendar is “Nissan” which is in the spring. So why is Rosh Hashana in the fall?
Dr. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, a senior fellow of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, strengthens this question in his article on this topic published in the Jerusalem Post. Rosenberg points to the fact that most cultures celebrate the start of a new year in the spring, when the world enters a stage of rebirth after a cold, dark winter. Thus, in England, for example, New Year’s was celebrated on March 26, the date considered to be the spring equinox. The French New Year was on Easter, which was also near the spring equinox. So, why do we do it differently?
Rosenberg points to the fact that ancient Egypt celebrated their New Year in the autumn. Why did the Jews continue this practice? In Rosenberg’s words, “At springtime, it may have been normal to celebrate the beginning of fertility and to pray for its extension over the coming year, but it was only in the autumn, at the end of the harvest, that the population knew whether their prayers had been answered, so that was the time to celebrate, to start the New Year, to be grateful and thank God for His blessings.”
The State of Israel is so blessed. Despite an international community that has turned its face from us and notwithstanding all our external enemy threats, we continue to thrive, flourish and bring great light to the world. As we begin the New Year we should all take the time to reflect on these blessings and look forward to another year of remarkable success for Israel.
By Rabbi Dov Lipman, former Member of Knessset.