Birthday of the World

ROSH HASHONE, the birthday of the world, begins with the sighting of the new moon on the first day of the seventh month after Passover, the exodus from slavery. It is also called yom ha-din, Judgment Day, and yom ha-zikaron, Remembrance Day, as we blow the ram’s horn, arouse our sense of judgment, and try to be merciful with ourselves and with each other.

It’s a time to place stones on graves and recall how the dead shaped our lives when they were alive. It’s a time to sculpt our own fate, overcome inertia, switch paths. It’s a time for renewing friendships and healing old wounds. It’s a time to make things right.

In the ancient days, it was a season of harvest and the coronation of kings. It marked the sixth day of creation, when earthlings were believed to have been created from the earth. It also marked the start of the sabbatical year, every seven years, when labor desisted throughout the community, and the jubilee year, every half century, when debt was annulled and land was redistributed.

Rosh Hashone is a time for braided sweet bread and honey-dipped apples. It’s a time to stand by flowing water with bread crumbs and an open heart. It’s a time for long walks and good cries. It is a time to say “l’shana tova” and give people a kiss.

Someone in the world is waiting for you to do something. This is a good time to do it.

Guide to a Secular Jewish Tashlikh: Take your family/household/intimate community to a flowing body of water. Stand on the shore in small circles of people. Each person in the circle praises each person in the circle (“I love how you . . .”) out loud, with everyone else listening. Then each person in the circle offers a constructive suggestion (“I hope that you . . .”) for the new year, with everyone else listening. When all of the speaking is done, everyone throws breadcrumbs into the water while shouting out their resolutions for the year to come.


My Dinner with Bobo

"Let's assume," Bob says, "that the main job of the President of the United States is to protect the wealth and the interests of that small sector of the population that is obscenely rich and controls the major corporations. This may sound conspiratorial to you, I know you don't really believe in class analysis, but nothing that Obama has done during the financial bailout — from the appointments he made to his 'helplessness' about bonuses and executive pay to his lack of insistence on a moratorium on house foreclosures — has done anything to make me think otherwise.

"You think because he's black he's on your side? You think because he's black he can't really be part of the ruling-class establishment? I call that racism, Larry.

"So Obama has already forked billions and billions over to his major constituency. That same constituency now thinks that they're spending too much on health insurance for their employees. Look what happened to General Motors with their whopping health bills (not to mention their lousy cars)! So Obama begins telling us, 'We're spending too much on health care. One sixth of the GNP is going to health care. It's unsustainable. It's too much. We have to reign in costs.

"But wait a minute. Why shouldn't we spend one sixth of the economy on health care? What's more important? Making war? Buying military hardware? Maintaining torture prisons in foreign lands? Do you have any idea how many trillions of dollars we pour into the coffers of those corporations?

"Okay, fine, let's not talk about the so-called war on terrorism. So now we've got to reign in health care costs. How would a pro-people government do that? By permitting the importation of medicines from Canada, from India. That would cut billions from health care costs. By allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate lower prices from Big Pharma. Billions more saved. By capping executive pay in the health care industry; by limiting doctors' incomes to a VERY comfortable but not filthy rich level; by capping the cost of medical insurance; by heavily taxing those industries that make their profits by degrading the public health; by charging corporations for environmental cleanups and putting that money into health care; by taxing the rich; by closing corporate loopholes.

"Instead, Obama makes a deal with Big Pharma, which is now financing a $150 million ad campaign in favor of health care reform. He makes a deal with the insurance industry. He says, from the very beginning, from before he was elected, that single-payer is 'unrealistic.'

"You still think — 'in his heart, at least' — that he's on our side?

"So how are those savings going to take place? Only one way. The people who are going crazy at those town hall meetings may be loony, they may be as Republican as all get-out, they may be very, very conservative, they may be the victims of alien abductions, but they're right in what they fear: the savings will take place by picking our pockets. It'll mean some amount of profit-conscious rationing.

"Hey! I'm okay with rationing if the government is actually looking out for me. I'm okay with rationing if everyone has insurance and profit is removed from the health care system. I'm okay with rationing if we're not preparing to waste quadrillions on killing people in Pakistan. But as long as we have the system we have, I'm NOT interested in having THIS government telling me or my doctor that I can't have that unnecessary CAT scan. I've worked hard for my health insurance, and I want my CAT scan.

"What's the matter, why aren't you eating?"