by Rabbi Don Weber
Shana means “year,” as in Rosh HaShana – the Beginning of the Year. But in another form, veshinantam, it means, “teach,” as in, “you shall teach it to your children.”
So, what does this word actually mean? In a famous Hebrew expression we are advised, meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazal – If you change your location, you change your luck. Here the word means “change.”
So, does shana mean year, teach, or change? To the Jewish mind, they are all the same.
What happens when you teach something to a child, or to an adult? You change them. What happens in the fall, when Rosh HaShana occurs? The world is… changing. Now we understand: Rosh HaShana means, literally, “The Start of Change.”
In my part of the country, things look very different now than they will in October. By then, the green leaves will transform into bright colors and the birds will be heading south. Change will surround us every day, and Judaism calls us to reflect these changes in ourselves.
This period in Jewish time is designed to help us start to change. The theme of Jewish life from now until Simchat Torah is, change – human change..
Seen this way, Rosh HaShanah is a challenge. We declare this season to be The Start of Change, and we invite all who choose to be part of this changing world to join us.
The world is changing. The question of the season is, are we?