Rosholushion (ˌro-shə-ˈlü-shən) n. 1. Rosh Hashanah resolution 2. a resolution arising out of a restorative justice-type process that includes an intention to make amends, to forgive and be forgiven.

Why a new word? To distinguish it from the seemingly similar but actually quite different New Year’s resolution.

New Year’s Eve – fireworks, champagne, the requisite kiss or awkward lack of one – might be fun or it might be underwhelming, but the central idea is joy. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the ten days in between are a different animal.

As Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer at the service I tune into put it, instead of dancing, Jews usher in the New Year by swimming in a river of tears. Yes, Rosh Hashanah includes celebration too, but from the start it weaves the sweet with the bitter. On the first day of the holiday, we read about a jealous wife who, after the miracle of her own late conception and childbirth, demands that another mother and son be banished to the desert, something that would result in their near certain death. On the second day, we read about a father who nearly kills his beloved son, even marshalling him to carry the wood for the altar on which he is to be slaughtered and burned.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Somehow, despite these utterly unlovable chapters in their lives, these people are loved; indeed they are revered. They are Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imenu – the father and mother of us all. Rosh Hashanah invites us to look at the darkest corners of our soul, at our deepest regrets and wounds, and out of this to fashion a wish, a decision, an intention. The Rosh Hashana resolution is born out of a cry.

Instead of a countdown to a kiss, party horns, and confetti, the practices Jews engage in during this month of Elul push us to create our own private truth and reconciliation commission, a restorative justice process – both internally and with the people in our lives. At its best, it is a spiritual technology that empowers individuals to resolve and heal their disputes without the need for lawyers and courtrooms. Instead of fireworks, the language of these Days of Awe is the plaintive wail of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Whether we find ourselves wielding the knife or cringing in terror from it, the shofar jolts us. It says: Open your eyes! See the ram! Would-be murderer and victim both are capable of unraveling the binds. We can always turn things around. Redemption is possible. It is ours if we resolve to choose it.

This can be hard work, but if we show up for the opportunity with full hearts, we can step into a new chapter a little lighter, a little freer, a little closer to person we wish to become.

Shari Motro is Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law. She writes about tax law and the legal regulation of intimate relationships and has also published editorials in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal.


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