|DD on her first Rosh Hashanah, with an apple as big as her head!|
(That's pronounced Sha-NAH to-VAH, and it means "Happy New Year!")
Tomorrow is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We'll be welcoming the year 5772. Yes, the Jewish people have been counting years for a very, very long time.
The Jewish New Year isn't very much like the American New Year. It isn't a bacchanal of drinking and revelry. Yes, there's a lot of joy and merriment, but it's the start of the High Holy Days, the most important time of the Jewish year. You see, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, God decides who is going to be written into the book of life for another year.
You spend those ten days in contemplation. What did you do right? What did you do wrong? Instead of announcing your New Year's Resolutions as the ball drops, you apologize for your wrongs. You make atonement.
This all culminates with Yom Kippur. It is a day of fasting, and of quiet repentance.
So how does one celebrate Rosh Hashanah? With an extremely ancient tradition- food!
On Rosh Hashanah, you eat one of the earth's most perfect snacks- apples. Dipped in honey.
It's that simple. You reflect of the wonder and the bounty of the earth, you thank God for all of His creation (including yourself), and you have a simple and delicious snack.
This year, I've gathered a veritable smorgasbord of apples and honey. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Mackintosh, and Asian Pears. We'll be dipping them in whipped blueberry honey, in lime honey, and in simple clover honey.
...all of which is organic, and all of our apples are local.
Next year we'll be bringing our children with the synagogue group to go apple picking the weekend before Rosh Hashanah. This year, I thought they were still too little.
We also celebrate by blowing the Shofar- a ram's horn. Disclaimer- this is LOUD. And it is HARD. (And we here in the Windy City are very proud of our Shofar prodigies.) Aunt Genocide isn't so bad at the Shofar, either.
An aside, on Jewish culture...
The girls' birthday is on Saturday. Smack dab in the middle of the high holy days. Lucky them, it's not on Yom Kippur! It is considered a special blessing to be born or to die during holidays in the Jewish culture. God is paying particular attention to you, to your actions, and to your life. There is a belief that if you die on the eve of a holiday, as my grandfather did six years ago, you essentially get a free pass for many of your misdeeds in life. You get to go straight into heaven.
Last weekend we celebrated the Simchat Bat of a good friend's daughter. (You may remember Jenni from this post...) Next weekend, we celebrate the anniversary of our own children's birth. And in between, I reflect. On what I did wrong, on what I can improve, on what I want from the year to come. And I pray that again God will write my name in the Book of Life for another year.
L' shana tova, my lovely readers! Happy New Year, a wonderful 5772, and may you all be inscribed in the book of life for another year!