Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beyond Apples and Honey - Rosh Hashanah at Home

A congregant asked me for some ideas as to how to make the Rosh Hashanah meal more meaningful. It's true that the meal tends to get short shrift on this holiday, at least in comparison to Passover, Sukkot, Thanksgiving and other more home-based celebrations. it tends to be overshadowed by what takes place in the synagogue, which is considered the center of the action on the Days of Awe.

But the meals are important too, especially in that families get together so infrequently these days, especially in a Jewish context. It's natural (I hope) that the rabbi's sermons are going to be part of the conversation. If no one talks about them, I haven't done my job. We even talk about them at my table (though sometimes it's in the mode of "Dad, why did you have to say that???). I also am hoping people will take me up on my request that they seriously consider visiting Israel this coming year, maybe taking a look at our TBE Israel Adventure 2010 Itinerary.

There are blessings and customs regarding the meal, of course, including Candle Lighting,
Evening Kiddush, Shehecheyanu and the ever popular Blessing for Apples and Honey. If you are looking for an exotic twist, how about apples and pomegranates, and other Sephardic traditions described in this informative essay?

Speaking of informative, if you are looking to add to your family's experience, this Rosh Hashanah Seder is helpful. It was put together by Noam Zion, known for his creative Passover Haggadah, "A Different Night." And also see this article by Jill Jacobs that includes some other food related customs (like eating "pun" foods). Rosh Hashanah is a time for introducing lots if different foods - including foods as diverse as spinach, dates and the head of anything (since it is the head of the year). But I must warn you: If you're serving the head of a sheep (a custom in some places), count me out. I'd prefer a head of lettuce.

Aside from food, newness can be expressed by wearing new clothes or doing something new - taking on a new mitzvah, for instance.

More then food, or even the discussion of sermons, the most important part of any Rosh Hashanah gathering might just be the chance to go around the table and have everyone discuss their hopes for the coming year. Some questions could be asked, such as, "If I could write my own Book of Life, what kind of book would it be?" Take this quiz to see if you are a self help, spirituality or how-to book. You could also prep for the Spiritual Olympics with some teshuvah exercises.

And then, after the meal, forego that nap. The Jerusalem Talmud states that "If one sleeps at the year's beginning (Rosh Hashanah), his good fortune likewise sleeps."

No comments: