Tag Archive for: Jewish New Year

Apples and Honey – My Wish for You

Apples and Honey – My Wish for You by Debra H. Goldstein

For more observant Jews, today
is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  Reform and many conservative practitioners
concluded celebrating the holiday last night. Besides its celebratory new year’s
translation, Rosh Hashanah is also referred to as the Day of Judgement or Day
of Remembrance because it is the first day of ten that Jews review their
relationship with God and reflect on their actions during the past year. For on
Rosh Hashanah one’s fate is determined and inscribed in the Book of Life, or not,
but that fate is not sealed until the end of the ten days when the most
important Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, is observed.

Other than Yom Kippur,
which is a day of fasting, most Jewish holidays have food traditions associated
with them. Rosh Hashanah is no exception. On that day, we dip apple slices into
honey as a way of expressing our hope for a sweet new year.  Traditional commentators have said that this
practice represents the Shekinah, the feminine side of God, and our belief she
is watching us and evaluating our behavior of the last year. We eat the apples
and honey hoping the evaluation will be kind – touched with sweetness. Another
viewpoint is that the apples are eaten because of their association with health
and healing.

I like to embrace the
first interpretation. As my family says a blessing thanking God for the apples,
eats the apples and honey, and concludes with a final prayer asking God for
renewal and blessing in the new year, I take stock of my many blessings.
Family, friends, health, and the ability to follow my passion are not lost on
me. I am well aware of those devastated by wicked turns in life, ravaging
storms, and major disappointments.

Although many of you
reading this are not observing my holiday, I cannot help but take this moment,
as I partake of apples and honey and observe my family doing the same, to wish
all of you a year of apples and honey.   

The Days of Awe

These are the Days of Awe. The period between Rosh Hashonah,
the Jewish New Year that began last Wednesday evening, and Yom Kippur, the Day
of Atonement, which will start this Friday night. It’s a time of reflection, of
repentance, of prayer.

The liturgy is full of powerful images. Several times during
the 25 hours of the holiday, a time when we fast, we repeat The Al-Chet, the
prayer of confession. We recite a long list of sins, asking forgiveness for
those we have done knowingly AND unknowingly. We ask God to “pardon us,
forgive us, atone for us.” But the prayer also tells us how “Teshuvah,
Tefilla and Tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, and charity are the ways we are
forgiven. Simply reciting the words do not give you a metaphorical “free get
out of jail card.” Words must be accompanied by action. Thought must
become deed.

I went to a lecture a few weeks ago, given by the brilliant
liturgist Lawrence Hoffman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_A._Hoffman).
He urged his audience to move beyond the simple translation of the words we
recite. To move beyond the image of God marking in a celestial accounting book, who will
live and who will die in the coming year. But instead to focus on the kind of life you will lead in the
coming year. If you knew that your time on this earth were to end this year, were you
leading the meaningful, thoughtful, loving kind of life you would want?

Whether you are Jewish or not, I think that is a question
for each of us, applicable whether it’s the Days of Awe or not. It makes us
focus on what’s important, prioritize how we spend our time, and insures that
we keep true to those values we know to be the bedrock of our lives.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life, with best wishes
for a healthy, happy, meaningful new year. 

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David


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For a Sweet New Year

This weekend was Rosh Hashonah, the start of the Jewish New Year, 5770. While Dick Clark doesn’t host a “Rockin’ Rosh Hashonah” Show on ABC, and there aren’t thousands of people blowing horns, wearing funny hats, and watching the crystal ball descend into Times Square, like December 31, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection and a celebration of renewal.

Surrounded by family and friends, I spent this holiday once again reminded of all my blessings. I didn’t make a list of New Year’s resolutions, but did make a personal promise to improve where I could, try harder when necessary, and accept graciously when acceptance is the best option.

Traditions are the always in life, those things we count on and by which we define ourselves and our family. So my holiday table was full of the traditional foods like apples and honey, to represent a sweet new year, and round challahs, instead of the Sabbath braided ones, to symbolize the circle of life. It wouldn’t be a holiday in this household without homemade chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps not found in the Bible, but a required food group for my family.

One of the nicest traditions of the holiday is Tashlikh, the ritual of symbolically casting off your sins by tossing pieces of bread into a body of flowing water. The ancient practice is based on the the Biblical passage in Micah, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Our congregation strolls about a mile down to the park that edges Long Island Sound. We sing some traditional prayers and then walk out onto the rocks and toss bread into the waters. The gulls come swooping in, happy to ingest our “sins.” Inevitably we joke that we each need to bring at least a couple of loaves of bread to atone for all our sins. The Rabbi reminds us that it’s symbolic, not a one-for-one ratio of bread to sin.

The beauty of the setting, the warmth of being surrounded by family and friends, the comfort of the traditional melodies, and the sense of renewal, of starting the new year afresh, gives me a wonderful feeling of contentment and rejuvenation.

Best wishes for a Healthy, Happy, Sweet New Year.

Evelyn David
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David