by Rabbi Josh Knobel

Though the Western world celebrates January 1 with revelry and spectacle, Jewish new years are a little different.

The most renowned Jewish new year, of course, remains Rosh Hashanah, which begins a 10-day period of introspection designed to remind us of our responsibilities to God and to our fellow human beings. Judaism, however, observes three additional new years, each reminding us of a unique and sacred Jewish responsibility.

The first of Nissan, which falls in the spring, commemorates the coronation of the Judean kings, reminding us of our responsibilities to Jewish unity and peoplehood. The first of Elul, which falls in the late summer, commemorates the ancient Judean tax year, reminding of us of our responsibilities to our civic institutions. Meanwhile, the fifteenth of Shvat, which falls this Sunday, serves as a new year for trees, reminding us of our responsibilities to our earth.[1]

According to our people’s ancient tale of creation, God spends six days fashioning a world teeming with abundance, and, in search of a custodian to safeguard creation, decides to create humanity. God then invests humanity with responsibility for preserving all life, from the fish of the sea to the birds of the sky to the trees of the field.[2]

Thus, while new years deserve celebration, Jewish new years also serve as a reminder of our sacred obligations. May this be the year we fully embrace our responsibility to lovingly cherish and preserve the bounty of creation – the precious world God created for all life to enjoy.

[1] Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1.

[2] Genesis 1:16-28.