This evening begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. The next ten days, culminating in Yom Kippur, are a time for repentance, prayer, and charity. Tradition holds that G-d opens the "book of life" during these days, inscribing who will live or die next year, who will have a good or bad year, according to their sins. Genuine shows of repentance during this time may inspire G-d to reconsider our fate before the book is finally sealed on Yom Kippur. This year the Muslim holy month of Ramadan nearly coincides with the Jewish month of Tishri, with the month of fasting beginning Wednesday (the second day of Rosh Hashanah). Ramadan is said to be the time that the Quran was sent down from Heaven. The whole month is a time of fasting and prayer, and on the 27th of the month, Laylat-al-Qadr commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. Laylat-al-Qadr is similar to Yom Kippur in that it is believed that Allah determines the fate of the world for the next year on that night.
I was encouraged to hear that Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas have announced intentions to meet and expressed determination to restart the Israeli-Palestinean peace process. It is a fitting time of year for two ancient peoples who share a common origin to express a new resolution to overcome generations of enmity. Obviously, there are those who do not want to have peace. (Two sad examples: the renegade Israeli soldier who started shooting Palestineans, and the Hamas operatives who were responsible for setting off explosives at their own rally in order to create an excuse to restart the violence.) And when peace finally comes, it will be the result of not only much blood and sweat, but more importantly faith and a willingness to recognize one's own faults and forgive those of others. With this coincidence of Tishri and Ramadan, may the repentence, prayer, and charity of us all inspire G-d to inscribe and seal the seeds of peace in the book of life this coming year.