Let's all party like it's 5780, shall we? Starting on the night of Sunday, Sept. 29, Jews will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה), or, the Jewish New Year. In the spirit of renewal and of good tidings, I've compiled quotes for Rosh Hashanah that might be funny, might be uplifting, or might cause you to reflect — sharing all of the best qualities of the holiday. It's the first day of the High Holidays, also known as the Yamim Noraim or, the "Days of Awe," and it's a time of celebration and reflection. These quotes reflect that.
For my friends and family, Rosh Hashanah is mostly a fun celebration where we eat a lot of challah, dip apples in honey, and then regret our life choices as we unbutton our pants on the sofa after the third serving of rugelach. But the holiday has much deeper meaning that that. In the book of Leviticus, we are told in a conversation between Moses and G-d that "In the seventh month, on the first of the month, it shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of [Israel through] the shofar blast a holy occasion."
It's the party day of the High Holidays, but it is also the day to beg forgiveness, and to seek renewal, because 10 days later, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement complete with fasting, prayers, and intimate self reflections.
So on Rosh Hashanah, let the kosher wine flow, unbutton those pants, and love your family and friends fiercely. Shana Tova.
1. "Because your future isn't bound by your past."
There is a "Street Rebbe" on 13th Avenue in Brooklyn with whom I regularly have occasion to speak with. He is a gentle soul, and imparts his wisdom to any who might walk by. This is what he tells me every Rosh Hashanah, and it brings me so much joy and peace. If you're ever in Boro Park, stop by his hang out for a chat. Everyone knows the street Rebbe.
2. “Everyone can look inside his or her soul and decide what he or she can do to make a world at peace, to end this fighting that goes on every day around the world.” — Ruth Gruber
From the indomitable Ruth Gruber. What a blessing for the new year.
3. "The Book of Life and the Book of Death are open every day, and our name is written in one or the other of them at every moment, and then erased and written again the moment after that. We are constantly becoming, continuously redefining ourselves. This doesn’t just happen on Rosh Hashanah." — Alan Lew
From Alan Lew, a rabbi who also studied Buddhism. He gets at the heart of what the holiday really means, and how it can be celebrated as a member of the world.
4. "For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone. ... We leave you a tradition with a future. The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete. People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed. Never throw out anybody. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. Your 'good old days; are still ahead of you, may you have many of them." — Sam Levenson
This poem by Sam Levenson hung in the office of a professor of mine at Brooklyn College. With Levenson being a Jewish writer and comedian from New York, this quote resonates during the High Holidays.
5. “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” — Elie Wiesel
From Elie Wiesel. May his memory be a blessing.
6. “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.” — Hannah Arendt
Prolific writer and scholar Hannah Arendt was a champion of forgiveness and restitution.
7. "Fight with realistic hope, not to destroy all the world's wrong, but to renew its good." — Elizabeth E Wein
From the sequel of Elizabeth E Wein's Code Name: Verity. A beautiful note on renewal.
8. “Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history.” — Hannah Arendt
More from Hannah Arendt. Her words have such power, even 80 years later.
9. "The legend engraved on the face of the Jewish nickel – on the body of every Jewish child! – not IN GOD WE TRUST, but SOMEDAY YOU'LL BE A PARENT AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE." — Philip Roth
Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is a classic for a reason.
10. “Every universe, our own included, begins in conversation. Every golem in the history of the world, from Rabbi Hanina's delectable goat to the river-clay Frankenstein of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, was summoned into existence through language, through murmuring, recital, and kabbalistic chitchat — was, literally, talked into life.” — Michael Chabon
From a classic novel about a Jewish hero, this is just perfect. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a must-read.
11. "Those who say they can, and those who say they can't are usually right." — Shimi Adar
This is from Shimi Adar, Orthodox Instagram sensation and motivational speaker. She is truly a blessing of a soul, and I get a lot from her message. This time of year, this feels like the right attitude for moving forward.