“Shanah,” the Hebrew word for year, has two opposite meanings: change, and repeat.
On one hand, we know the coming year will hold the same calendar, the same holiday cycle, and what seems like the same life situations as the year before. On the other hand, life is always in flux. Life is unpredictable. And the potential for change is always present.
If the Jewish new year was only about acknowledging external change, or celebrating the renewed cycle, it might have been called “shanah chadashah,” new year. Instead we call it Rosh Hashanah: head of the year, head of the change; a time when we dig into our heads, focusing on internal work, repairing relationships, fixing the past, improving ourselves… teshuvah.
So it is within this framework that I’d like to place our work at Hazon, and specifically the hard work of change. To truly create a healthier and more sustainable world, we need the support and initiative of world governments. And that kind of advocacy is indeed part of our work. Yet the macro changes cannot happen without a sea change of individuals aspiring towards the transformation demanded by teshuvah – to treat each other better, to treat the planet better, to become our best selves. And the headquarters for our transformative work is Isabella Freedman.
Jon Leiner, one of Hazon’s staffers, reminded me that Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, says that leaving one’s usual environment (literally “to travel in exile from his home”) is one of the paths of teshuvah.
So I’d like to invite you to consider changing your environment this year by coming to Isabella Freedman for Rosh Hashanah or Sukkahfest – not just because it’s a beautiful place, and an amazing community, but simply because it’s a different environment.
What we call a “360-degree” holiday experience means you are completely immersed in your surroundings. You can walk through the woods or sit by the lake in between services and delicious kosher farm-to-table meals. Everyone around you is honoring the spirit of the holiday, in the mindset of teshuvah and sweet beginnings. It is a place pregnant with possibility, and hope. It is a place where we’re putting into practice many of the ideas we believe will lead to a healthier and more sustainable world.
Simply by showing up to a retreat center nestled in the Berkshires, you have already opened a window for change to take place. You have paused the flow of daily life to slow down, breathe fresh mountain air, contemplate, meditate, meet new friends and greet old ones. Our retreat center functions as a safe space to embark on the inner work of transformation.
There are a tiny handful of spaces still available for our 16th Hazon Ride, this Labor Day weekend. And registration for Sukkahfest is now open – it sells out every single year, so if you’d like to come, now’s the time to sign up.
And – wherever you are – as summer starts to wind down, may we be blessed to be our best selves, to rest, recharge… and to bring goodness to the world.