Belated (But Not Completely Outdated) Happy New Year
I know Anne Laurie handled the start-of-holiday greetings, so I’m tagging on behind, with a few hours (and roughly 100 shofar blasts) to go in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year.
Really, I’m doing so just to give me an excuse to post this image:
I know of vanishingly few fine-art images of Jewish ritual life — even fewer of views of religious practice out in the world. So when my art-historically sophisticated wife sent this on, it was a surprise.
Anyway, I find this holiday one of those that works on me, atheist-Jew that I am. The two stories read on the two days of services come from the Abraham cycle. Day one, we read of the expulsion of Ishmael and Hagar from the camp. Day two, the binding of Isaac.* Terrifying stuff, terribly sad, much grist for thought.
And then, after the chanting is done, apples and honey all round! As we say in my family, so to you: may the coming year be as sweet as this apple and this honey.
*If you want to read a brilliant, horrific account of the path the Akedah — the Isaac sacrifice story — took in Jewish history, look no further than Shalom Spiegel’s classic, The Last Trial. For an equally brilliant dissection of the literary technique in the story, the first chapter of Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. is so good I believe every writer should read it. Here’s the essay on its own. (In it, Auerbach compares the story of the sacrifice of Isaac to the scene in the Oddyssey, book 19, when Odysseus’ housekeeper recognizes the long-lost hero by the old scar on his leg. Just a brilliant bit of literary analysis, and a great introduction to thinking about one’s own writing from the point of view of technique and desired ends.)
Image: Alexander Gierymski, The Feast of Trumpets, 1884.