It was a Saturday, September 29th, the night before my birthday, and we were just beginning our senior year of high school. On Friday or Saturday nights, if the weather was good, we would often gather at a little clearing down by the river. Our gatherings were always innocent, nothing going on that should not have been. In fact, we found out later that some of the dads would sit on the hill with binoculars, watching us the whole time. I have wondered since if they always followed us around. We will never know.
However, on that night we saw the lights of police cars coming close, and yes, we scattered. A friend had just been injured in a football game and was on crutches. He climbed a tree and never saw his crutches again. Personally, I think they went in the river. But the police never stopped. Maybe they were just trying to scare us, or maybe it was enough to have a bunch of dads on the hill watching our every move. We never found out. That night just happened to be Yom Kippur. From then on, all any of us had to say was "Yom Kippur," and we all knew what they were talking about. Even as a new September rolls around, I think of that night. I think of Yom Kippur.
So what is Yom Kippur? We know our Christian holidays, but what holidays would Jesus have been observing this time of year? There are three: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. The date for each varies every year. This year there is only one in September: Rosh Hashanah, on the 30th. The biblical name is Yom Teruah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish New Year. It is marked as a complete day of rest, sacrifice and blowing of the Shofar, or ram's horn. Apples dipped in honey are often eaten, signifying a good sweet year to come. Neighbors and friends are greeted with "Shana tova!" which means "Have a good year." But it is also a day of reflecting on where forgiveness is needed in one's life and how to be a better person in the coming year.
Perhaps we should see our New Year's Day as a time to reflect on being a better person, a time to forgive those hurts from the past year as well as a time to seek forgiveness. Yet, this forgiveness we seek, becoming the person God has created us to be, is something we seek each new day. It is the gift of Jesus Christ. The only one we need to be assured of a blessed new year.
Next month is Yom Kippur on the 9th and Sukkot on the 14th. Watch The Anchor to learn more about all the fall festivals Jesus would have been celebrating during his life on Earth. Until then, instead of "Shana tova!", have a good month!