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The Birthday of the World: Rosh Hashanah’s Meanings

 

Ernst Simon

Commentary, September 1955

“And so, Judaism begins every new year with this victory of the mother over the institution and its soul-deaf representatives. Hagar the Egyptian, the mother of Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs, and Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, join hands as sisters in maternal suffering and maternal consolation.”

The calendar, with its rhythmic division of the year, its beginning and its end, its workdays, rest days and holidays, provides a characteristic expression of the spirit of different religions, cultures, and peoples. This is especially true of that moment or event which is taken as the starting point from which time is reckoned. For Christianity, Jesus, as the son of God, had only to be born to open a new era in world history; Islam, however, whose prophet claimed no divinity for himself, begins its reckoning, quite consistently, not with Mohammed’s birth but with his first great act as the founder of a religion, the flight from Mecca to Medina, the “hegira” of 622.

Secular movements too, like the French Revolution and Italian Fascism, have attempted—mostly without success—to introduce new calendars, and thus to symbolize their epochal importance. With us also one occasionally sees a date given as “In the year such-and-such since the foundation of the Jewish state,” but the idea does not seem to have caught on. Jews, even those of Israel, still reckon time from the creation of the world; their New Year is its birthday. … SOURCE

 

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