Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, 2020
Known as the Jewish New Year, this is no regular New Year of drunken revelry and resolutions made in a hangover haze. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world and highlights the relationship between God and humanity. In addition to marking the “Head of the Year” (the literal translation of Rosh Hashanah), it marks the beginning of the Days of Awe—a 10-day-period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (including the High Holidays). During our services, Rabbi Abe helps us focus on ways to make the coming year better—for ourselves, our community, and the world, as he explains the idea of atonement and forgiveness in the Jewish tradition.
Despite its seriousness, Rosh Hashanah is also a joyous holiday abundant with rich customs, rituals, and special foods.
There’s the perennial sounding of the Shofar, which is a symbolic wake-up call to be a better person in the new year. An additional ritual is the practice of Tashlich, a ceremony where we symbolically toss our sins to the wind by throwing pieces of bread into a flowing body of water.
Your fondest Rosh Hashanah memories probably revolve around sitting at the table with family and friends indulging in specific foods associated with the holiday. Enjoying apples dipped in honey symbolizes sweetness and blessings for the New Year. Similarly, some also eat honey cake, apple cake, and, well, anything honey-related. Making the hamotzi (blessing) on round raisin challahs (different than the usual braided variety eaten on Shabbat and other holidays) has multiple symbolic explanations. The most obvious is the ongoing cycle of the years and seasons; another suggests that since we are reflecting on self-improvement and repentance, the round shape reminds us that teshuvah is available and possible for each of us.
For some families, enjoying pomegranates during Rosh Hashanah is a thing. It’s believed that the number of seeds in the pomegranate symbolizes the number of mitzvot, good deeds, you will do in the coming year. Legend has it that there are 613 seeds in the juicy fruit, the same number of mitzvot commanded in the Torah. And let’s not forget the seeds are loaded with antioxidants, too.