Editors' Note: Rabbi Clare will continue his Jewish meditation column in two weeks due to the occurrence of two of the arguably holiest holidays in the Jewish calendar this week and next.
The Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah - began at sundown on Sunday, (Sept.16). Jews celebrate “the birthday of the creation of the world” in a variety of ways, depending on a variety of customs based on Biblical commandments, Jewish denomination, geographic region, local community custom, rabbinic instruction, family tradition and even individual preference. Most common across all of these sources of observance are the elements of: 1) communal prayer and personal reflection on one’s thoughts and behaviors during the past year, with an emphasis on considering how to improve one’s-self in the coming year; 2) hearing the stylized, trumpeted blasts from a Kosher ram’s horn (certain other types of animal horns may be used if Kosher) which is called a shofar, which awakens us to not only our cultural and personal responsibilities, but also to our spiritual renaissance in a time of new beginnings; 3) the symbolic casting away of our sins – called Taschlich – where we go down to a freely flowing body of water and release stale bread crumbs into the flow; and 4) sharing a festive meal with family and friends where we eat Challah (normally braided loaf of sweet-ish bread consumed on Shabbat – the weekly Jewish sabbath - and most other holidays during the rest of the year but is round at this holiday to celebrate the cyclical nature of life) and apple slices dipped in honey (to symbolize the sweetness which we anticipate the coming year to hold for us).
As I mentioned in my last post, one of the preferred greetings on Rosh Hashanah is: “L’shana tova tekatevu” - “May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year!” or, more simply: “L'shana tova!” (“To a good year!”). The conclusion of Rosh Hashanah - with our personal life-reviews and aspirations – is precedent to our next major Jewish holiday during this entire period of reflection: Yom Kippur – the somber Jewish “Day of Atonement”.
Next week: The solemnity and significance of Yom Kippur.