For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days in Judaism, sometimes Jews say “Happy New Year”, like we all do on December 31. Sometimes we say “Good Yontiff,” which is Yiddish for “Good Yom Tov,” which basically means “Good Holiday.” But most often, we say “L’Shanah Tovah,” which means “For a Good Year” and is short for “May You Be Inscribed in the Book of Life for a Good Year.”
According to a key prayer on the High Holy Days, we are told that on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), it is written, and on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) it is sealed — who shall live and who shall die, who shall be healthy and who shall be sick, who shall have peace and who shall be harried, who shall die by fire and who by water, etc. etc.
Pretty scary stuff, which keeps Jews coming to synagogues on those days even if they don’t come any other time of the year. So when we say “L’Shanah Tovah”, we are wishing someone to be given a good decree by God for the coming year. It is much more significant than the “Happy New Year” we say on December 31, where we celebrate that we are still alive at midnight to see the coming of another calendar year.
What Judaism Teaches
Judaism teaches that you can get inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year by repenting of your past sins and sincerely promising and hoping to do better in the coming year. If God judges that you are sincere, He will presumably grant your wish for a good year unless He has other plans for you.
A year is a long time and many things, good and bad, can happen in that time. So realistically, all we can be is hopeful that the sincerity of our repentance during the High Holy Days will have something to do with what lies ahead. However, try as I might (and it is arguable how hard I try), every year when I recite the prayers that say how “we” have sinned, I have never been able to find even one that I am not guilty of. Obviously, there is more going on here than the quality of my repentance.
The fact of the matter is we don’t know why we have the lives we are given. If we’re lucky, we will have plenty of good to match the bad — for the bad is a given — as they say, you can’t get through life without some suffering.
What Does the Shalomist Believe?
If repentance is not the answer, what is?
The Shalomist believes that reincarnation is a real part of our world and that we are put on this earth for the following reasons:
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