The New Shul

Parshat Nitzavim/Rosh Hashanah

Ordinarily, on the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh (the new moon), we say birkat ha-hodesh, the blessing that announces the coming of the new month. The one exception is this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Tishrei, which is also Rosh Hashanah. There is no blessing to announce the coming of the first month of the year, the month of Tishrei.

The Shem Mi-Shmuel offers an explanation:  The reason why we say birkat ha-hodesh onthe Shabbat before every other Rosh Hodesh is to take  some of the holiness of Shabbat and push it forward into the coming month. That way, the new month gets off to a good start by drawing on the sanctity of the Shabbat before it. But Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world, which had no Shabbat before it. Rosh Hashanah reminds us of our ability to make a fresh start, to create ourselves anew, as if we had no past.

In many respects, we are products of our history. We are defined by our genetic inheritance, by our upbringing, and by decisions that we made long ago. But Rosh Hashanah teaches us that we are also more than that. We have the ability to make choices that have no antecedent, that come, in a sense, from nowhere, in that they are just that: choices.

The realization of our freedom brings with it a deep sense of responsibility. It also brings great joy. May this season be, for all of us, a time of new beginnings.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to noon.
  • Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday evening September 29. All are welcome at our services for the Days of Awe. The full schedule of services is available here.