Shanah is an interesting word. It means “year” in Hebrew, and is related to two ideas that seem not only divergent, but even contradictory. On the one hand, we can relate “shanah” to the verb l’shanot, which means “to change.” Or, with no less authenticity we can see in the word shanah the verb l’shanen, which means “to repeat.”
So which is it? Do we call the year “shanah” because one follows the next in endless repetition, or do we call the year “shanah” because each year is new and different from the one that preceded it? Or, to borrow language from the political season, does the new year represent change, or more of the same?
As is so often the case, the answer is “yes.” The delicious ambiguity behind a simple word like “year” points us toward important lessons. In truth, the new year that will arrive in just a few days presents us with an opportunity for change and growth, and also with the chance to embrace those aspects of our lives which are timeless and unchanging. The secret, of course, is knowing which is which.
Alanna, Rabbi Ken and Sue, and the entire Temple staff and leadership join me in wishing you a shanah tovah.
(I am grateful to Pini Kachel for sharing this lovely teaching with our Religious School faculty at our opening workshop in August. Todah Rabbah, Pini!)