Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rosh Hashanah

Blowing the Shofar
to bring in the new year
Happy New Year!

Well, for the Jews anyways. Tonight at sundown Jews everywhere will start celebrating the Jewish new year -- Rosh Hashanah. This year marks 5771 in the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah has always been one of my favorite holidays because it marks a fresh start to another year; a new year of making friends, spending time with family and quitting bad habits.

Most importantly, Rosh Hashanah is all about reflection.

Unlike the secular new year, when people think about their "New Year's resolutions," Jews think about the previous year.

Did I mend that rocky relationship? Did I spend more time with my younger sister? Did I lose 20 pounds like I promised?

You see, the Jewish new year isn't about popping a bottle of champagne and getting wasted. It's about taking the time to think about yourself and cleanse your soul.

From the start of Rosh Hashanah tonight, to the beginning of Yom Kippur (next Friday) Jews will be in a state of total reflection. That's why we spend so much time at temple.

Rosh Hashanah is the much needed time in our busy lives to take a break and really reflect, repent and meditate on the sins we've committed.

Every prayer said asks G-d to forgive us for our sins, give us the strength to be better and give us hope for the year to come.

Not much of a 'celebration' right? Well, no worries, there are parts of this holiday that are fun!

Here are two reasons why I enjoy the holiday:

The Food

My mother is the best Jewish cook in the world. And contrary to what Top Chef has to say, she is probably one of the best cooks in the world.

So any holiday that forces her to take a day off from work so she can cook up a ridiculous, insanely, incredible meal, I absolutely encourage.

However, her specialty is baking sweets -- and that is exactly what Rosh Hashanah is all about: It's customary to have sweets during the holiday -- get that, it's a rule.

The Prayers

One of the reasons I think people dislike religion so much is because they don't understand it. In Judaism that's particularly true -- especially if you don't know Hebrew. You'll find yourself sitting in temple for hours listening to a language you don't understand.

However, because everyone celebrates the new year (even the most reformed Jews), a lot of Rabbis take it upon themselves to include English in the service.

This is crucial because Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment:

On Rosh Hashanah, God is said to inscribe the fate of every person for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or the Book of Death. The verdict is not final until Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, during which Jews reflect upon their actions over the past year and seek forgiveness for their transgressions in hopes of influencing God's final judgment.
The prayers are one of my favorite parts because instead of me constantly telling G-d how great He is, I'm actually having a conversation with him in a different way.

And if you're not Jewish or just want to freshen up on the holiday, here are a few interesting facts:

Why is Rosh Hashanah two days?

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as two days everywhere (in Israel and outside Israel), because it occurs on the first day of a month. Messengers were not dispatched on the holiday, so even people in Israel did not know whether a new moon had been observed, and everybody celebrated two days. The practice was also maintained as a custom after the mathematical calendar was adopted.

Why do you blow the shofar?

There are tons of different interpretations as to why Jews blow the shofar but my favorite is the simplest -- the sound of the shofar announces that the new year has officially started.

Year 5771? Really?

Yes, our calendar is a little more dated than the secular calendar but that's because we started counting from the day of the creation of Adam and Eve (the sixth day of creation).

Hope all the Jews have a good new year!


1 comment:

  1. The Rabbi gave a great sermon today: "In order to improve ourselves we need to crush the idea we have of who we are first; otherwise, you are just bringing your past into your future."

    Do you agree?