Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

Jews around the world are entering the most holy time on the Jewish calendar, the High Holy Days. Beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ending ten days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this season is marked by intense reflection and repentance. This is one of 18 devotions focused on this holy season, exploring its meaning and the many lessons we can learn from this biblically mandated observance. To learn more, download our free study on the shofar, ram’s horn, that ushers in this holy season.

Is your alarm clock a friend or foe? As the witty joke goes: My alarm clock and I had a fight. It wanted me to get up, I refused. Things escalated. Now I’m awake, and it’s broken. I’m not sure who won . . .

The job of an alarm clock is to wake us up so that we can start our day. However, while some people see this as a gift, others see it as an enemy. Whatever your stance on the value of the alarm clock, most will agree that if you want to be productive, the alarm clock is a necessity for most of us to start the day.

But have you ever considered needing a wake-up call to start a new year? Yet, for Jews around the world, that’s exactly how we start the New Year — with a wake-up call using God’s own prescribed alarm clock. We call it the shofar, a trumpet crafted from a ram’s horn, and it is a central part of services on Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the wake-up call is scripturally mandated: “On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly . . . It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.”According to Jewish tradition, the first day of the Hebrew month Tishrei is when man was first created, and on this day, every year, humanity begins a new year. We start with a wake-up call.

But why do we need a wake-up call?

God’s greatest gift to humankind is time, but it is not unlimited. No matter who we are, there are still only 24 hours in a day, 365 days a year, and an average life span that is all too short. Too often, we go through life in a “slumber,” not really governing what we do or thinking about why we do it. All too often, we go through our daily routines like zombies, devoid of meaning and purpose. We let precious moments slip by and fail to notice the beauty around us. Some people get to the end of their lives and realize that they slept their way through it all; others never awake from their dream-state and believe that they will live forever.

This is what the psalmist was thinking about when he wrote: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”(Psalm 90:12). Only when we wake up to the reality that every day has an end and so does every life, can we really live in the truest sense of the word. Only then will we use our time for what matters most. No longer will we procrastinate, hitting the proverbial “snooze button.”

While you may celebrate the New Year on January 1, you can begin afresh and anew today. Begin each day as we begin the New Year — with clarity, energy, and a new appreciation for life. Each day, let us love, give, and serve, so that when our eternal rest comes, we will have used the time allotted to us fully and well.

Learn more about the traditions and rituals associated with Rosh Hashanah in this free issue of our Bible study series, Limmud (“study” in Hebrew), “Shofar: The Sounds of Repentance.”

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