Rosh Hashanah: Celebrating Jewish new year with apples, honey

Shofars for sale in a row of baskets in Jerusalem’s old city market. Photo by DerorAvi, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Shofars for sale in a row of baskets in Jerusalem’s old city market. Photo by DerorAvi, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4: Get your apples, challah and honey ready! Millions of Jewish families around the world will be celebrating the start of the New Year 5774! The holiday lasts two days and ends at sundown on Friday, September 6. In addition to sweet tastes to welcome a sweet new year, the other central symbol of the holiday is the blowing of a shofar.

Greet friends!
Wish Jewish friends, “L’shana tovah!” Or, some say it, “Shana tovah!” Basically, it wishes people a good new year. Are you nervous about trying to pronounce this phrase? Don’t worry! Just watch our fun video, at the end of this story, which will have you rattling it off like a veteran.

What does the holiday celebrate?
“Rosh Hashanah commemorates the time when God created Adam and Eve—the day that Jews consider the birthday of all human beings,” writes Gail Katz, a co-founder of the WISDOM interfaith women’s network. Gail, along with other WISDOM women, co-wrote one of our most popular books, Friendship and Faith. This year, Gail wrote an overview of the holiday, explaining:

“Rosh Hashanah also is the day when God judges the world and each human being living in it, and thus this holiday is also called the Day of Judgment. God weighs the deeds of every person. On one side are the good deeds, the mitzvot, and on the other side are the sins. … For those people whose balance of the two is somewhere in the middle, God gives a chance to be good before making a decision about the coming year. As God gave the world the 10 Commandments, He gives us 10 days to improve our lives. Then, Yom Kippur is a Day of Atonement for one’s wrongdoings. This stretch of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called The Days of Awe, a period of judgment and repentance, forgiveness and spiritual renewal.

“On Rosh Hashanah, to celebrate the sweet new year, we dip our challah in honey, as well as apple slices. It is also customary for Jews to symbolically throw away their sins into a body of flowing water. This custom, called Tashlich, encourages Jews to throw bits of bread into the water with the hope that their sins will be carried away, and they will be purified.

“Rosh Hashanah and the 10 days of repentance are a time to ask forgiveness from God and from  fellow human beings that we may have wronged. We make a firm commitment never to repeat the wrong behavior. God can forgive us for the sins we committed against God—but God cannot forgive us for those sins we committed against others. We must approach every person we may have hurt by word or deed throughout the past year and ask for forgiveness. God cannot forgive us if we haven’t made peace with our fellow man and woman.”

For another perspective, you’ll also enjoy the holiday overview by Jewish author Debra Darvick from her book This Jewish Life. In her introduction to the holidays, Debra explains how Rosh Hashanah relates to Yom Kippur.

Get the recipes:
Feed the Spirit & Flavors of Faith

Rows of ApplesFEED THE SPIRIT: Food writer Bobbie Lewis has published a wonderful Rosh Hashanah column. First, Bobbie’s column is packed with fascinating information about the holiday. For example, you may be surprised to learn that Rosh Hashanah has not come this early since 1899! Bobbie also has an explanation of the apples-on-Rosh-Hashanah tradition that may surprise non-Jewish readers. But, here’s the real treat: She shares her recipe for honey cake, which has just a hint of cloves and coffee, among the complex flavors.

FLAVORS OF FAITH: Are you fascinated by these traditions and want to start by experimenting with Jewish breads? There’s no better guide than Lynne Meredith Golodner’s The Flavors of Faith, which includes an entire chapter on challah with delicious recipes. And, today, Lynne has a new column on the challenge families face in ensuring that ancient traditions remain “a living, breathing legacy.”  Whether you’re Jewish or not, Lynne’s column explores questions millions of parents are asking with each new season.

HOW DO WE PRONOUNCE “Shana tovah”?

Click on the video screen below to enjoy an entertaining introduction to this holiday greeting! If you don’t see a video screen in your version of this column, try clicking on the headline, at top, and reloading the column on your computer or hand-held device.

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