It’s All About Your Family

Rosh Hashanah, according to the liturgy and the Talmud, is supposed to be, inter alia, about creation writ large, and the creation of humanity in particular. However, the Torah and Haftarah readings for Rosh Hashanah discuss family rupture, rather than creation.

We read about a family breakup – the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael (which occurred to Abraham’s dismay according to the Torah), and about the binding of Isaac – which according to midrashic anthologies brought about the death of Sarah, and a lifelong estrangement between Abraham and Isaac. In the Haftarahs, we read about Hannah’s desperate longing for family, for children, and about how we, the children of Israel, are akin, in G-d’s eyes, to a child who wreaks havoc, thereby making his parent’s innards turn inside out (in Jeremiah).

Why did the Rabbis of antiquity deliberately choose these devastating texts of familial disintegration and heartache for us to read on Rosh Hashanah? In order to emphasize the foundational primacy of familial relationships in Judaism and the human condition. So that we make amends with loved ones before it’s all over, rather than fall prey to the false idols of egoism and radical individualism.

Shabbat Shalom and Shannah Tovah,
Rabbi Sessler

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