Wednesday, September 12, 2007

To Everything a Season

In a few hours, when the sun sets on the East Coast, North American followers of two of the world’s primary religions will begin the observance of their holiest time of the year: Judaism’s spiritually sober yet celebratory New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Islam’s month-long period of sacred reflection and daytime fasting, Ramadan. These holidays are, in tone and intent, akin to Lent in Christianity.

As a Jew, Rosh Hashanah has personal meaning for me, a rich blend of childhood memories and comfortable ritual that enriches the importance of this holiday. As an ordained Interfaith minister, I regard the confluence of these two holidays as a powerful divine command to take stock, reassess and atone, as well as reflect, rejoice, renew and restore. And coming on the heels of the September 11th anniversary, I appreciate the equally-strong secular imperative to slow down and look within, instead of zooming about in our usual frantic manner of behaving like human doings rather than human beings. This is a time for sincere beingness, lest we lose sight of who we are and what we’re doing.

As a Tarotist, I enjoy the fact that both the Jewish and Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendars that chronicle these religions. In the Tarot, the Moon is the 18th card in the Major Arcana and, not incidentally, 18 is the number that corresponds to the Hebrew word chai (life) and Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (and 2 x 9 = 18…). The Moon represents the life of the soul in darkness and in light; it stands for what is hidden and the necessity of revelation. Ramadan calls for “the spiritual cleansing of the soul through restraint” (by fasting and sexual abstinence); Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year,” initiates a period of spiritual growth and redemption.

It may be a cliché to say that true faith and humanity should express itself through peace, forgiveness and unity, especially at this time of the year, but cliché or not, that is what’s so and it’s worth repeating until it sinks in. Whatever your faith (or lack of it) may be, I hope you will join me in expressing a heartfelt wish that all of humankind will use its beliefs and intelligence to make the spirit of Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan a functioning reality every day of the year.

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