- Judaic Studies
- Upper Division
- Weekly D'var Torah
By Julia P., Denver JDS 10th Grader
Good Morning. For those of you who are not familiar with me, hi, my name is Julia Perlmutter, I’m a sophomore, and I’ve been attending DJDS since kindergarten. I could give you the whole spiel about how in this week’s Parsha the Israelites make a huge mistake and G-d punishes them and that’s why we should be good people, Shabbat Shalom. I could tell you that Lashon Harah is bad and that you should treat everyone as you want to be treated and at that moment you may be completely inspired to become a better person but after about 10 minutes that intention will have slipped away from your consciousness.
As we are all aware, the holiday of Rosh Hashana is around the corner. The literal translation of Rosh Hashana is “Head of the Year.” Although the holiday is named such because one’s head is located at the top of the body, and this is the “top” of the year, I’d like to look at it a little more literally. In my AP European History class with Mr. Snyder, we have recently been talking about the Renaissance and humanistic philosophy. This ideology states that the individual has intrinsic value and it puts an emphasis on the importance of human life. Because of this widespread idea, many people of the time took it upon themselves to tap into the meaning of this philosophy by actually applying it to their everyday lives. More and more people began to pursue their talents such as dance and art, sharpen their minds through the study of science and math, and embrace their curiosity by exploring new lands. For the first time in history, humans were allowed and even encouraged to be selfish, to focus on bettering themselves, and this is exactly what Rosh Hashana implies.
Rosh Hashana is inherently humanistic. It encourages every single Jew to look to the year ahead and better their mindsets for the good of their own well-being. Many aspects of Judaism are so focused on the community, which is amazing don’t get me wrong, but how can one care for others if they cannot even care for themselves? Because everyone during the Renaissance focused on themselves and their own passions, the greater community was better off. Art, culture, and science all improved the lives of everyone … So too when we take Rosh Hashana as an opportunity to better ourselves we are in a better position to therefore contribute to our communities.
I am almost 16 years old and am working to figure out how to put myself first while simultaneously bettering myself both for my own well-being and for the benefit of my peers. I am learning how to balance giving myself a break when I need it and pushing myself when I know I can do better. Something I’ve learned to come to terms with is that there is no right or wrong time to start a new cycle within your life, you just need to start, and luckily, our very own religion acknowledges that, and even goes so far as to give us a date to start. Although it may be hard to begin a new chapter of our lives, Rosh Hashana is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge your growth and look ahead to your future goals, so take advantage of it, I know I will. Thank you, Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.