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    A happy new year

    The two greetings don’t agree: “Happy New Year!” isn’t the same as Shanah Tovah!

    Between “happy” and tovah (“good”) there’s quite a difference. “Happy” is more momentary and frivolous, “good” is more lasting and ethical.

    The adjectives are different, but the noun is identical – “year” and shanah both denote a span of time. Samson Raphael Hirsch, however, sees a difference.

    “Year” indicates a number of days, weeks and months. Every year has the same length, though there is a minor difference between years if one of them happens to be a leap year.

    Shanah in Hebrew presumably comes from the root that means to repeat: this year from the mathematical point of view is a repeat of last year and next year will be a repeat of this one.

    But Hirsch points out that there is another Hebrew root that means to change, to make a shinnui. The art of living is to cope both with sameness and with change.

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