But the LordGod called to the man, “Where are you?”— Genesis 3:9

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.

Most people familiar with Jewish tradition will tell you that the Jewish New Year commemorates the creation of the world. And they would be vaguely correct. More specifically, the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, on which we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, correlates specifically with the sixth day of creation. On that day, God completed the creation of the world with his final act: the creation of man.

And according to Jewish tradition, a lot happened on man’s first day of life. Not only did he meet his spouse, he also had his first run-in with God when he and his new wife ate from the forbidden tree. Adam and Eve try to hide from God when they realize what they have done, but nothing is hidden from the Almighty.

What does God say to them in the garden? “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God already knows the answer. His question really is, “Where are you spiritually?” In other words, God was saying, “Somewhere in-between the time that I created you and now, you veered off the path of righteousness. Take a look at where you are and find your way back.”

Repentance in Hebrew is teshuvah, but the word has other meanings as well. Teshuvah means “to return,” and it also means “answer.” This is because our answer to God’s question, “Where are you?” is to return to the path of righteousness. This is repentance, and repentance is a central theme of Rosh Hashanah

Ever since the first Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year has been a time of deep introspection. We get the chance to evolve the creation called man. From all of God’s creations, humans are the only ones who have the ability to reflect on their lives and do something about it. And when we do take those steps to make our world a better place, we raise humanity up to a higher level.

That’s why we celebrate the New Year, not with parties that leave us in a drunken stupor so that we forget who we are, but with introspection that leaves us knowing more than ever who we are.

Where am I? Who am I? What needs to change? These are the questions that we need to ask as the New Year begins, and we chart our course for the year ahead. 

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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