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Words of Wisdom: Rosh HaShana

By on September 11, 2015

New Year (Re) Solution. New Year’s resolutions are usually ill-conceived human plans to improve in the forthcoming year. The concept is so human and so universal that people from all walks of life use the “new year” as a means to wish for new things and resolve to act in a different way.  Unfortunately, as we have all experienced and witnessed, the success rates in such new year resolutions are not high.  We have a tendency to continue repeating what we have previously learned and find it hard to create new habits.

The Hebrew language provides us with insight as to why these resolutions fail and a possible solution to make them succeed.   Rosh HaShana means “Beginning of the Year.” Rosh means “beginning” and Shana means “Year”.  Looking deeper into the word Shana, we notice its root is comprised of Shin ש , Nun  נ  , and Heh ה.  As with many Hebrew words, one particular root can have several meanings.  The following words also share the same root as Shana: to repeat, to teach, to sharpen, tooth, second, year, and change.  On the surface, there seems to be little commonality between these words and their meaning.  However, when you look carefully at a common theme in these words the notion of constant repetition reverberates.   The act of teaching requires the repetition of a concept over and over again.  Similarly, sharpening creates a sharp edge through repeated action.  A tooth is a sharpened instrument that repeatedly chews food.  The “second” of something is the repetition of the first.  Year is a repeated cycle of time.  All of these words share the common theme of repetition.  But how is the word “change” related to repetition and why does it have the same root as all the above words?  A cycle is an automatic pattern that keeps repeating if change does not step in and alter its course.  Actions and Time are bound to repeat unless we change them.Rosh-Hashana

G-d, in His ultimate wisdom, created nature with its repeated cycle of time and behavior, but also created the power of change.  In the very cycle of repetition, He granted various opportunities to set in motion a new path that is different from before.  All it takes is a simple change to alter the previous cycle and move in a different direction.   When better to change our paths than at the beginning of the year?”  A full cycle has now been completed and bound to repeat unless a new change of motion is set into place.  The Rabbis were keenly aware of this basic law of nature and understood how the beginning of the year is the most opportune time to change.  That is why they instituted the ten days of Teshuva (which means Return).  From the beginning of Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur, there are ten precious days where we are instructed to change our behavior and act differently.  Not just to wish for better things and not just to resolve to do things differently but to actually act differently.  The Sages added additional words to our prayers to highlight the importance of this window of time.  Moreover, during these precious ten days, the Sages commanded us to consciously perform good actions and Mitzvot, particularly those with which we have struggled in the previous year.   By incorporating the wise teachings of the Sages and acting better during these ten days, we allow action-based behavior change to inaugurate the new year and to set into motion all of the solutions we have in mind.  This behavior-based solution is significantly more powerful than hoping that lip service resolutions will somehow magically pave the way for a better year.  We should learn from the wise teachings of our Sages and use our positive actions to set into motion a great year for ourselves and the world.    May this year be a year of positive change towards further growth and happiness.



About Kamy Eliassi

Kamy is currently working as a Managing Director for an international logistics company and also holds a CPA license. He is passionately involved with Jewish learning and studying the Hebrew language and its connection to all the languages of the world. He is currently working on starting a global learning platform for ​Biblical Learning called TorahVersity. Kamy can be reached at