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May you be inscribed for a good year

So, another New Year. The thing about being a Jewish-American baseball fan employed in academia is that I get a New Year every two or three months; this year the baseball season ended on the last day of 5771. So that’s all right.

To be somewhat more serious, Rosh Hashanah is only sort-of the beginning of the year, as it is the first day of the seventh month. But it doesn’t matter whether it is the beginning of the circle or just another point along the arc—Rosh Hashanah is when your next year is Written in the Book of Life. On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. That gives us ten days to replace the remorselessly just with merciful love. What do we do with these ten days?

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

That’s nine, actually, but it’s assumed that on Rosh Hashanah itself (which started here a few hours ago) we are in shul, listening to the shofar, and that it takes us that full day just to be woken up to begin. And nine days to do the Isaiah thing.

Let’s try, then, to take this nine days—I know most of y’all Gentle Readers aren’t Jewish, and I know that some Jewish GRs aren’t heavily into the the Days of Awe, but Isaiah’s prophecy is for everybody, and you don’t have to believe in a Book of Life to discuss with us what Isaiah might mean, might have meant. My take on Scripture, as you know by now, is that the miracle of it, what differentiates Scripture from any sort of good poetry or story, is that the Divine speaks to us through it, both individually and in communion, historically, in our time and in eternity. It is up to us, individually and in community, to find out what we find in it for ourselves and our times.

So let’s do. Take that quote, please, and chew on it for a day, and we’ll all gather around the table on Friday to start in with the washing.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,