The first month of the Jewish year is always an exciting one. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, catapults us right into a festive celebration of this year’s potential – we say special prayers, we blow the shofar, and we eat special foods that symbolize the blessings we hope to benefit from and bring with us into the new year.
But beyond the joy that we all feel in the birth of a new baby, the Brit itself has such a special significance to us as individuals and as a people. Some 4,000 years ago, an old man named Abraham heard the call from G-d to leave his home and go forward to the Land of Israel. Some years after his arrival in the land, G-d commanded him to circumcise himself as an act of covenant between him and G-d, an act of covenant that would be repeated by his descendants forever. At the original covenant with Abraham, G-d changed Abraham’s name from Abram to Abraham.
The Day of Atonement is, indeed, the holiest day of the year. The most important element of the holiday, however, is the atonement connected with it. “You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.” And again at the end of the section: “And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” (verse 34)