(And Why Diabetes is Like Judaism…)
Today, Jews around the world are celebrating their traditional New Year’s holiday, known as Rosh Hashanah, which translates literally to “the head of the year.” We eat apples and honey, to usher in the beginning of a sweet new year (no idea how to properly dose insulin for that, btw). But it’s not only the beginning of a new calendar year; it’s considered a celebration of the Birthday of the World.
[I read that Rosh Hashanah is particularly auspicious this year, as the date coincides with the 70th anniversary of "that infamous moment on September 30, 1938, when Neville Chamberlain stepped off a plane, waving a sheet of paper like a white flag of surrender, and then declared outside 10 Downing Street peace for our time" — by standing up to those who sought to seize absolute power in World War II.]
This new year in Jewish history will be 5769. That’s a long, long time. And as history tells us, the Jewish people spent much of that time being ridiculed, exiled, and persecuted. They had about as little reason to keep up a message of hope as any dogged prey. But that’s just what they did.
Seemingly against all reason, they just kept talking about hope, about improving the world, about trying to do it better next time. Rosh Hashanah was and remains “a time to look ahead with hope.”
Like the secular New Year, this holiday calls on people to transform their lives, by looking back at the year past and determining what they can do better. “It teaches us that we can stop repeating destructive patterns of behavior and move on.” There’s always room for a fresh start and a new beginning, even when things look hopeless.
And it strikes me that this is kind of the way we ought to — or hopefully do — live our lives with diabetes: full of hope despite the odds, and ready to try a fresh start even after we’ve stumbled again and again. Of course with diabetes, you’ve got to recommit to this transformation every single morning when you get out of bed (sigh).
There’s even a Rosh Hashanah tradition of casting off your “sins” (your worldly mistakes, not your moral shortcomings) by tossing away bread crumbs in a creek or park — as if to say, “be gone, boo-boos, let me start over today.” Wouldn’t it be cathartic to go for a walk and ritually “cast off” all the diabetes mistakes you’ve made? Let the birds eat them!
When I think about it, even the crux of Rosh Hashanah could be pure Diabetes Doctrine: “Although the future is uncertain, and fraught with peril, let us look ahead with hope.” May it be so.
In that spirit: Happy Birthday, World.