We are fast approaching Rosh HaShanah 5777, the Jewish New Year 2016. This happy festival is observed for two sweet days. It occurs on the 1st & 2nd of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, 5777. Or perhaps in the more familiar Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew dates coincide with the evening of 2nd to the evening of 4th October 2016.
But what is Rosh HaShanah and why is it so special to the Jewish people? Well, Rosh HaShanah literally means ‘Head of the Year” and refers to the anniversary of the creation of man yes, Adam and Eve, the relationship between G-d and humanity. Its purpose is to emphasize the connection we share and the dependence we have on each other. From mankind’s viewpoint, we respect the ‘greater power’ for our creation. We express gratitude for our physical form and our spiritual being (the soul). We are thankful for the knowledge instilled within us, to give us our faith. From a spiritual perspective, armed with our belief in our Creator, we are duty bound to spread his presence in our physical world. It is for this task that he is reliant on us mere mortals!
Musical blasts of the traditional Shofar (ram’s horn used for religious purposes) represents the trumpets sounding off as in a regal coronation. This is to remind the world that this is the period of time for repentance. Rosh HaShanah although a celebratory holiday, is also the anniversary of man’s first sin and serves as the first countdown of the Ten Days of Repentance finishing at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
In more traditional teaching, Rosh HaShanah is also the Day of Judgement, where it is said a record of the destiny of each person for the upcoming year is written in the Book of Life or the Book of Death. But don’t be too worried, the final verdict is not ‘set in stone’ until Yom Kippur, so you have time to atone until then!
Fortunately, Rosh HaShanah comes with a lot of sweet foodie traditions. One of these is a childhood favorite of mine, dipping crispy tart apples into sticky golden honey. This represents our wishes for a Sweet New Year, along with the rounded sweet challah bread which symbolizes the circle of time. Each specific symbol of the festival draws us together as a unique family, wherever we are in the world.
In Tel Aviv this Rosh HaShanah 5777, my family will be together to welcome in the Sweet New Year. We shall recite prayers for a long life filled with good health, happiness, and prosperity. We shall say blessings over the key elements of the festive meal. We shall listen to one hundred blasts of the Shofar in the distance and will remember those we have loved but who are no longer in our lives.
We will indulge in the juicy ruby clusters of jewels hidden inside leathery skinned pomegranates. The ancient seeded fruit with its regal crown has much religious significance for the Jewish people as it does in health benefits! Eaten by the slaves in Egypt, it adorned the clothing of the Cohen’s ( high priests) and was engraved on the pillars of the First Temple. It is as much a Jewish symbol as it is an Israeli good food source.
On Rosh HaShanah, pomegranates are eaten to epitomize goodness, an abundance of it! It’s traditionally known from our seder school learning that this fruit contains 613 seeds. Each seed equates to a good deed (mitzvah), which means that we are supposed to keep all 613 of them (mitzvot)! It’s a heavy order, but no doubt one we are qualified to conduct throughout our existence.
♥ May you open your hearts and embrace a the Sweet New Year 5777. Wishing you all Shanah Tovah from Tel Aviv!