Many cultures celebrate a new year around the autumn equinox. I’ve always felt this is a time of new beginnings.
I love the crisp fall leaves and poignant scents of cinnamon and apples, reminding us of sweetness and decay.
We also enjoy the traditions of Lammas Day.
Preparing during the Hebrew month of Elul
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time when Jews celebrate the good things they have experienced in the previous year, and also when they reflect on hopes and dreams for the coming year. But Rosh Hashanah is not only festive; it is also a solemn time, a prelude to Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment.
Rosh Hashanah inaugurates the Days of Awe, ten days during which Jews reflect on their conduct, make amends for past wrongs, and set themselves to do better in the coming year.
We’re not Jewish. We’re not Messianic. We don’t keep Kosher. But I love to celebrate the feasts since we began years ago during our Year 1 history lessons. It’s important to know our church history.
Reading the Torah
The portion of the Torah read on the first day of Rosh Hashanah is Genesis 22:1-19, the story of the Akeidah, or “The Binding of Isaac.” In Reform congregations that observe a second day of Rosh HaShanah, the Torah portion is Genesis 1:1-2:3, the story of creation.
The Haftarah, the selection from the prophetic books that accompanies Torah readings on Shabbat and holidays, is from I Samuel, and tells the story of Hannah.
My favorite prayers and lessons are from Hebrew for Christians.
Tashlich (“to cast away”) is a ceremony generally conducted on the first day of Rosh Hashanah when we symbolically cast our sins into a moving body of water – such as a river, stream, or ocean. This often includes the recitation of verses from Micah and Psalms.
God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities, You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.Micah 7:19
Bread has been used to represent our sins, but some choose to cast stones, wood chips, or bird seed instead, to be more environmentally healthy.
Symbols of Rosh Hashanah
A ram’s horn is blown to announce the new year.
The prayer before eating a date (tamar in Hebrew) includes the phrase “yitamu hataim”— may the wicked cease.
Apples and Honey
Dipping apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah is tradition to wish for a sweet New Year.
Pumpkin or Squash
Before eating pumpkin or squash (k’ra’a in Hebrew), Sephardic Jews say “yikaru l’fanekha z’khuyoteinu“– may our good deeds call out our merit before you.
Peas or Beans
Mentioned in the Talmud as ruviah, a word that sounds like the Hebrew “to increase,” indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year.
Leeks or Onions
Associated with the Exodus from Egypt.
From the Aramaic name silka, similar to the Hebrew salak (go away) is used to express the hope that our enemies disappear.
Fish heads symbolize our wish to be heads, not tails; leaders, not followers. Originally a sheep’s head (a little hard to get these days) served as a reminder of the ram that saved Isaac’s life.
Round challah represents the circle of the year and of life.
The abundance of seeds represents prosperity. Also promises you will do many good deeds in the upcoming year.
Sephardic Jews celebrate a Rosh Hashanah Seder with much symbolism.
Our dinner is more like a mini Thanksgiving feast.
Then dazzle your guests with a gorgeous Salmon Over Pomegranate and Golden Kiwi Arugula Salad as the appetizer.
For the main course, pair the quintessential Hearty Pot Roast with a Cumin Spiced Brisket With Leeks and Dried Apricots, a decidedly non-traditional take on a holiday favorite.
Side dishes should be exciting, too. Serve time-honored Tzimmes with Honey alongside Jeweled Butternut Squash featuring pistachios, pomegranate seeds, and chopped dates. Pomegranate also plays a starring role in the fresh and fruity Blood Orange Pomegranate Salad.
A holiday meal can’t be complete without dessert. But don’t settle for dry, crumbly honey cake when you can make a light and fluffy and delicious Honey Bundt Cake. Or go in a more unexpected direction while still nodding to the tradition to eat dates, and serve Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce. Or lighten things up with Baked Pears with Honey and Cinnamon.
We like honey cakes!
Pair dessert with Wissotzky Teas’ new and exotic chai offerings: Ginger and Turmeric Spiced Chai, Pumpkin Spiced Chai, Salted Caramel, or Spiced Nana Mint Chai. Mint tea drinkers can savor Wissotzky’s new line of Simply Nana Teas, which unleash a subtle layer of earthiness and invigorating minty flavor in natural green, black, and herbal flavors.
Some years, we have turkey or chicken instead of beef.
We always have challah, a lovely fruity salad, fish, and leeks or onions.
Go apple picking.
Have a honey tasting.
Make new year cards for friends and family.
Back challah together.
Go on a nature walk.
Throw your care, prayers, worries, resolutions into water.
Blow the shofar or party horns.
- PJ Library
- Reform Judaism
- The Maccabeats: This is the New Year
- Shalom Sesame: Tikkun Olam Song
- Jewish Learning
- Kids Connect
- Interfaith Family
- Jewish Agency
- Jewish Boston
L’shanah Tovah! (For a good year!)
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