“Man is a wolf to man,” reads the Latin proverb Homo homini lupus. This aptly describes the way we treat each other in today’s society. One may have reached the point where we think that we have nothing to rejoice over—we have destroyed Earth, families, countries and peoples, culture and education. We have reached a very bad juncture. But on the other hand, this low point could serve as an opportunity to scrutinize our state, restart and ascend from this situation on Rosh Hashanah, this new year.
It all depends on how keenly we judge ourselves, evaluate the time we have wasted to amend our state, declare “Enough!” and take the necessary steps to a new life. And this new life does not necessarily imply building anything new other than good relationships between us.
Rosh Hashanah, from the words “head” or “start”[“Rosh” in Hebrew], and “change” [“Shinui”], signify the beginning of change, the ability to transform our current direction of suffering, insecurity, and emptiness into a new path in life characterized by happiness, confidence, and fulfillment.
The symbols of the Rosh Hashanah holiday resemble the state we aspire to attain. Apples with honey represent the desire for a sweet and happy new year. Eating a pomegranate with all its seeds symbolizes to us all the good deeds we need to do toward others. A baked round loaf of bread is the whole, complete life we want to achieve. And the head of a fish reminds us “to be the head and not the tail.” The fish also symbolizes to us the animal that lives in water, and water is grace. It is like getting a newborn child who was surrounded by water inside his or her mother’s womb. So, all these are signs that we stand on the threshold of a new era, a new life.
Where exactly should we begin this process of change? The first step toward a new beginning is through gaining awareness. It is important to realize that human relationships—either bad or good—determine our whole life. They affect not only us but all the other levels in nature as well: inanimate, vegetative, animate. The human level is the highest on the scale of nature, so if we repair the dysfunctional and reckless way we treat each other, this correction will permeate the rest of the system.
The increasing problems that we are experiencing globally should awaken within us a deep introspection to the point that we realize that everything depends on us, on our attitude toward our fate, toward nature, toward everyone. A thorough assessment of the quality of the relationships between us will reveal just how harmful we have been to each other during the last year, the root cause of the pains and sorrows we experience in return.
Consequently, a good new year will be determined by our desire to implement the great rule of the Torah, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We have to scrutinize ourselves according to this tenet, whether we have behaved correctly or badly toward others.
With all the evil forces being revealed in human society and in nature, let’s hope that we will be smart enough to realize that our strength lies in our unity. Therefore, it is in our best interest to hasten our change of direction, from separation to integration. Then, instead of devouring one another like wolves, we will behave as a strong community of caring human beings who constantly support and cherish each other. Happy Rosh Hashanah!