SUNSET SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16: Sound the shofar and wish your neighbor L’shanah tovah 5773!
It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For two days, Jews around the world attend services, seek forgiveness and joyfully enter the annual High Holy Days. Sometimes called the Days of Awe, this period culminates in Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement starting at sunset on Tuesday, September 25 this year.
Rosh Hashanah typically is celebrated for two days. Honey and apples are the most famous holiday foods in this country, but other foods, including dates and pomegranates, have ancient associations with the New Year and still are enjoyed in Jewish communities around the world. The honey-and-apples symbol, often seen on holiday cards and other Rosh Hashanah media, is a reminder of the joy in welcoming a “sweet” new year. (Learn more at Judaism 101.)
Literally “head of the year,” Rosh Hashanah was never referred to by name in the Bible; rather, references in Leviticus were made to Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar. There are many stories and lessons associated with the blowing of the shofar now, but the Bible does not clearly explain the symbol. (Wikipedia has more about these traditions.) In the synagogue, 100 notes are blown each day of the New Year festivities; some refer to this noise as a “call to repentance.”
A lesser-known Jewish tradition related to Rosh Hashanah is Tashlikh, or “casting off.” After filling their pockets, devotees walk to flowing water and empty their pockets, thereby symbolically “casting off” the sins of the old year. You will find some marvelous antique photographs from the 1920s, taken of Jews performing Tashlikh rites along the shore of Tel Aviv—and a new year’s column by author Judy Gruen—in our story headlined Is God My Friend?
Tired of apples and honey? A variety of websites offer refreshing and tempting dishes, and the most tantalizing list we found came from Israeli chef Amos Hayon in the Jerusalem Post (bread pudding with caramelized apples, anyone?). Allrecipes and Chabad.org also offer tempting menus for Rosh Hashanah.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.