Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Year's Greetings

There are, counterintuitively, two Jewish New Years.

Rosh HaShanah is the commonly known New Year, translating literally to Head (Rosh) of the (Ha) Year (Shanah).  This year's Rosh HaShanah began the night of September 4th.

But - and here's where it gets slightly strange for gentiles - Rosh HaShanah is observed on the first day of the seventh Jewish month, Tishrei.  Can you imagine celebrating New Years on July 1st?

The first Jewish month is Nisan, sometimes spelled Nissan.  (Not that Nissan.)  It stretches March/April of the Gregorian calendar.  What else could the first day of the first month be considered, if not the start of a new year?

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As a Jewish baseball fan, the parallels between the Jewish calendar and the baseball calendar have always struck me.  I celebrate the national pastime's New Year arrives with Nisan every April:  Opening Day of the new season.  This is also the time of Judaism's big Spring holidays, Passover and Shavuot.

The dog days of baseball are during the heart of Summer, those weeks between July 4th and Labor Day when the heat mounts and the only respites can be found at the pool, the beach, or a ballpark water fountain.  Coincidentally, this is also the time of year with a paucity of Jewish holidays.

But then, arriving with Tishrei and Rosh HaShanah, baseball's second season makes its own dramatic advance:  the playoff berth battles of September, followed by the postseason showdowns of October.

In these Autumnal contests, there is the feel of a new year at work, with 100-win and 88-win teams meeting on equal ground.

There are other similarities.  At Rosh HaShanah services, Jews wrap themselves in prayer shawls (tallit).  At the upcoming baseball games of significance, fans will also wrap themselves up tightly - the weather is getting colder.

In Rosh HaShanah and its fellow High Holiday, Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition holds that the book for the new year is being inscribed and sealed with all that is to come, both positive and negative.  In September and October, baseball teams inscribe and seal their own histories - be they memorable or humiliating.

This is a new year, capitalized or uncapitalized, whether you are Jewish or gentile, baseball fan or not -- for this is also the start of the school year.  The leaves might start changing, falling, dying soon... and yet Autumn is somehow also the time of growth and renewal.

Welcome to the Jewish year of 5774 and also the 111th postseason for baseball fans.

May it be a sweet one for you and yours.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And my best New Year wishes to you as well. Enjoy!