Tishrei is packed with mitzvos. Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, and Succos give this month more holiday days than any other month on the calendar. As this is the first month of the year, it seems God wanted to start us out on the right foot. A year that begins with lots of mitzvos is a good omen for the rest of the year. Take a hint from God and use the beginning of the year to chalk up as many good deeds as possible. Refrain from anything you suspect to be spiritually damaging Let the words that come out of your mouth be as sweet as the honey you put in On Rosh HaShannah we dip an apple in honey and eat it symbolizing our hopes for a sweet year. If, however, we let garbage and refuse come out of our mouths, we are also showing God what kind of year it’s going to be. Why replace the omen of honey with sewage? Don’t let honey go in and garbage come out.
The idea of speech figures prominently during this month. We pray more in this month than in any other month. The sages say that in this month the universe was created, which God did through the act of Divine speech. There is a custom to annul all accidental vows. And the somber and melodic prayer Kol Nidre is connected with this idea as well. So we see that it’s extremely important to elevate the attribute of speech at this time.
The most powerful form of speech is when words of Torah come from the mouth Kabbalistically the letter “lamed” is related to this month. The word “lamed” in Hebrew also means to learn. The beginning of the year metaphorically starts with an encouragement to learn. Why particularly at this time of year? We must learn before we do. The beginning of the year is the time to remind ourselves that all beginnings must come from a place of wisdom and knowledge. As it says in the prayer Lecha Dodi, “The end of an act begins with thought.” This idea is also brought out in the first Torah portion of the year. In the synagogue a portion of the Torah is read weekly and the entire five books are completed in a year. At this time we return to the beginning of Genesis. That first portion contains the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In that garden were two trees, the Tree of Knowledge, and the Tree of Life. The Torah is often referred to in scripture as the Tree of Life. Why were they cautioned not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, yet allowed to eat from the Tree of Life? There are those that say that the mistake of Adam and Eve was that they partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which symbolizes experience, before eating from the Tree of Life, i.e. learning Torah. If they had first eaten from the Tree of Life, God would have then allowed them to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Therefore we learn the lesson that learning must come before doing. Learning the principles of honesty starts a business off on holy ground. Learning about love helps a marriage get off to a good start Learning principles of spirituality infuses whatever we do with meaning. We should start the year off with as much Torah study as possible. We should strengthen our commitment to study in general. And we should take this concept as a reminder to consult the wisdom of our heritage before beginning any new projects this year.