Next week is Rosh haShanah. I brought this to the attention of my students at Middle Tennessee State University to tell them why we will have no class next Thursday. But then I tried to give them some insight into what Rosh haShanah is.
Of course we looked at the relevant Torah portions (this was in Bible class after all), but that told them little. And we explored the idea of forgiveness and devoting the month of Elul that leads up to Rosh haShanah to forgiveness, but that too didn’t get at the heart of the matter.
Then I told them about Reb Nachman and his pun on Rosh haShanah as seeing “rosh” as head and “shanah” as “shinui,” change. Rosh haShanah is a day to change your head.
Still blank stares. “Metanoia,” I said. This is what Jesus asks of you, “metanoia,” literally to change your mind, to change your head, to change you level of consciousness. This is what Jesus is asking you to do, and the Jews have a special season for doing it. Of course Jesus, being a Jew, knew this and tried to come up with metaphors that would speak to his understanding of what a changed head might be like.
He called living with a changed head the Kingdom of Heaven. You no longer thought with an earth–bound, selfish, egoic mind. You now though with a cosmic mind, seeing God in, with, and as all things. One metaphor for the Kingdom of Changed Heads is the mustard seed. This is a troubling metaphor.
My students told me that saying the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed is saying that it starts small and grows big. We need to plant the seed of change and God will nurture change within us. OK, except…
OK, except that the mustard seed was a weed that would choke off your garden, kill off other produce. It was a cancer. No one planted mustard seed except in highly controlled situations. It was dangerous. It killed the old, the counted on, the safe. And that is why it is a good metaphor.
Changing your head, thinking with a new mind, a new consciousness that goes beyond the egoic mind of last year, is not fun or comfortable. It means chocking off the old; killing off what you thought was in your best interest and seeing something new.
Rosh haShanah should be a mustard seed planted at the head of the year. It should bring about a changed head, a new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31). It should take over your life and kill off all that is old and not longer life-giving. Otherwise the only “new” in New Year is the number “8” in 5768.
L’shana Tovah, this year’s changes be for the good.