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Holidays

Background and Explanation

Rosh Hashanah (lit. “Head of the year”) is the Jewish New Year. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of the role of people. Jewish writings say that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, where the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed “to live.” The intermediate class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect, repent and become righteous; the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living forever.”

Asking for Forgiveness

If someone strays from the path by committing a forbidden act he can be forgiven if he performs Teshuvah. You can complete this task by doing more than simply apologizing for your wrongdoings, but rather, recognizing and apologizing for the wrongdoing in a sincere way and actively promising to never repeat the act. The ritual of Tashlikh, a ritual act where one “casts-off” wrongdoings, is performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Prayers are recited near natural flowing water, and one’s mistakes are symbolically cast into the water, often by throwing bread or pebbles into the water, to symbolize the “casting off.”

Rituals and Customs

The common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is “Shanah Tovah,” which in Hebrew means “have a good year” or similar greetings. After Rosh Hashanah ends, the greeting is abbreviated to “Gmar Chatima Tova” (May you be finally sealed for a good year) until Yom Kippur.

The shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn, is blown and is intended to awaken the listeners from their “slumbers” and alert them to the coming judgment. On Rosh Hashanah the shofar is blown in long, short and staccato blasts that follow a set sequence: Teki’ah (long sound), Shevarim (three broken sounds) Teru’ah (nine short sounds) Teki’ah Gedolah (very long sound) Shevarim Teru’ah (three broken sounds followed by nine short sounds).

Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, to symbolize a sweet new year. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local customs, such as dates, pomegranates, black-eyed peas, or the head of a fish to symbolize the prayer “let us be the head and not the tail.” Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year.

Questions for Discussion 

  1. Are there any instances this past year that you would like to take the time to make right?
  2. How can we be better in the coming year than we were this year?
  3. How quick are you to forgive someone? What can someone do to make things right?
  4. Why is it important to forgive people? Is there ever a time when someone should not be forgiven?
  5. What “sweet” things do we have to be thankful for in our own lives?

Commentary on Rosh Hashanah

Aish Hatorah 

(Reprinted from www.aish.com/h/hh/rh/)

 A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone we may have wronged during the previous year. To the greatest extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. Similarly, we should be quick to forgive those who have wronged us… Why do we ask for both a “good” AND “sweet” year? Doesn’t the word “good” automatically include “sweet?” Judaism teaches that everything happens for the good. It is all part of the Divine will. Even things that may look “bad” in our eyes, are actually “good.” So we ask that in addition to good, the year should be a “revealed” good – i.e. one that tastes “sweet” to us… Rosh Hashanah is a time of evaluation. But to accurately assess your performance this year, you have to know your job description. Judaism asserts that every soul comes into this world charged with a unique, positive purpose… The light you are meant to shine into the world is yours alone, as individual as your fingerprint, as personal as your voiceprint.”

 Union of Reform Judaism

(Reprinted from www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/rosh-hashanah)

“…And as we sit side by side, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children, we discover portals to conciliation where perhaps only provocation and resistance prevailed. We rediscover tenderness and vulnerability and the myriad contradictions of our humanness. Against a backdrop of responsive prayer, we reflect upon the great challenges of parenting, on marriage’s call to remain emotionally committed, on the biblical injunction to honor our aging and increasingly infirm parents. We recite the liturgy of awe–admissions of frailty and failure, entreaties for greater understanding, for strength, for forgiveness. The gnawing hunger of Yom Kippur afternoon begins in the murmuring mouth of Rosh Hashanah, as we empty the casks of self-justification, discarding great stores of blind self-interest, and live for a time consuming nothing but the thought of our own imperfection…”

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism 

(Reprinted from: www.uscj.org/JewishLivingandLearning/ShabbatandHolidayInformation/Holidays/JewishHolidays/HighHolyDays/default.aspx)

[Rosh Hashanah is] “A time to build relationships. Each year, our lives seems to grow increasingly hectic. We juggle jobs, families, and community activities. Some of us must also deal with additional problems, such as illness. In the face of this “craziness,” one of the first things to suffer is extended family relations. We lose touch with aunts, uncles, cousins, and even parents and grandparents. Rosh Hashanah is a time to consciously reverse that trend, planning holiday meals that will serve as many as possible; sending cards (or e-mail messages or making phone calls) to all those with whom we have lost touch; spending time in the synagogue reflecting on the importance of family relationships; and modeling for our own children and grandchildren the kind of caring behavior we hope they will demonstrate in their own lives…” 

MyJewishLearning.com

(Reprinted from: www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Rosh_Hashanah.shtml)

 “…Read through the prayers and slowly think about what you’re saying and don’t be overly concerned about being behind. Look, the worst that could happen is that you will fall behind, but don’t worry, they’ll probably announce the pages so you can always catch up.

4) If a particular sentence or paragraph touches you–linger a while. Say the words over and over to yourself. Softly but audible to your ear. Allow those words to touch you. Feel them. And, if you’re really brave, then close your eyes and say those words over and over for a couple of moments…”

Rosh Hashanah 5777

October 2nd (Erev/Evening)-October 4th

FOR CHILDREN & FAMILIES

Background and Explanation

Rosh Hashanah (lit. “Head of the year”) is the Jewish New Year. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Rosh Hashanah is the time we begin to ask forgiveness from others, ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Asking for Forgiveness

When you do something wrong the way you ask for forgiveness, or Teshuvah, is by saying “I’m sorry for what I have done and I won’t do it again.” You can also join with friends or family and perform Tashlikh, an act where you say some prayers and throw bread or pebbles into the water, to symbolize the “throwing away” of our mistakes.

Rituals and Customs

The common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is “Shanah Tovah” which, in Hebrew, means “have a good year.” After Rosh Hashanah is over, you can also greet people with “Gmar Chatima Tova” (“May you be finally sealed for a good year) until Yom Kippur.

The shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn, is blown and is meant to wake up our souls in time to ask for forgiveness. On Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown different ways. These are: Teki’ah (long sound) Shevarim (three broken sounds), Teru’ah (nine short sounds), Teki’ah Gedolah (very long sound) and Shevarim Teru’ah (three broken sounds followed by 9 short sounds).

Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, to symbolize a sweet new year. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local customs, such as dates, pomegranates, black-eyed peas, or the head of a fish to symbolize the prayer “let us be the head and not the tail.” Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year.

Here are some fun links about the Jewish New Year, including President Obama’s Rosh Hashanah message and some music videos!

President Obama 2014 Message

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBUAdVf-nU4

Maccabeats- Book of Good Life

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRaQSbuTiBg

Dip your apple- Fountainheads

www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlcxEDy-lr0

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Questions for Family Discussion

  1. Are there any moments this past year that you would like to take the time to make right?
  2. How can we be better in the coming year than we were this year?
  3. How quick are you to forgive someone?
  4. Why is it important to forgive people?
  5. What “sweet” things do we have to be thankful for in our own lives?

 

 

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