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First published in 1959
by Jewish Chronicle Publications
Joy and sadness are twins and the closeness of their relationship is never seen more clearly than at the new year. The old year with its disappointments and frustrations has departed, the new year with its promise of fulfilment has dawned. It is natura for thoughtful peopel to call a halt to the buys tempo of their lives and use the new year season for reflections on the life’s problems, its meaning and its purpose. This is why the Jewish new year festival is not an occation for indulging in hilarity or exuberant mirth but the beginning of the ten days of penitence when men are called upon to reassess the value of their lives and consider how the quality can be improved. But for all his dissatisfaction with this present course the man of faith affirms that life is God-given and worth living. Rosh Ha-Shanah is a solemn festival but it is a festival. The key-note of the day is a spirit of quiet confidence on which man seeks to overcome the hindrances to better living by placing his trust in God.
With Yom Kippur, the festival of Rosh Ha-Shanah has come to take pride of place in the Jewish calendar. The powerful fascination of those ‘Days of Awe’ continues to draw the majority of Jews into the Synagogue. Although present-day Jewish preachers tend to deplore this ‘three times a year’ Judaism – and so far as Judaism is a religion intended to embrace the whole of life their critism is well-founded – yet it is in many ways an encouraging sign of the basic appeal of our faith that at least on these days its challenge does not go unheard. The man who is godly in his spare time is far removed from the Jewish ideal; constant persistence in the path of duty rather than periodic bouts of religiosity is Judaism’s demand on its adherents. But it is not unusual for men and women to change the whole course of their lives under the influance of the lovely home ceremonies and stirring Synagogue services of the ‘Days of Awe’. Here it is possible in the expressive words of Rabbis, for a man to ‘acquire his eternity in one hour’.
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