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Happy New Year! Traditionally, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is a time of introspection and reflection. How did we do in the past year? What are we hoping to change in the coming year? During this meal we will rejoice in being together, and think backwards on the year that was, and forward to the year that will be. Plus delicious food, puns, and casting off some bad karma. To a sweet new year!
The Yamim Noraim (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) are here. We’re tasked with reflecting on our lives and practicing teshuvah (returning). Through teshuvah we examine our actions over the past year, seek forgiveness from ourselves, others, and the Divine and dedicate ourselves to do better next year. These sacred days provide an opportunity to ask ourselves the hardest questions and explore all the nooks and crannies of our thoughts, words, and actions over the past year. What’s beautiful about this process is we’re given the awesome opportunity to meet ourselves exactly where we are and practice being accountable. Teshuvah is about living a reflective life and taking responsibility for how we treat ourselves and interact with our family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and even strangers.
Practice Instructions: Let’s invite our full selves to this practice. Right now in the present, look back over your past year’s journey, while visioning out the potential in the year to come. Before working with the three simple steps below close your eyes for a moment and take a few deep breaths. Bring your awareness to this moment in time, check in with your breath and your body. Feel the seat beneath you. Now return to your breath. Notice how you fill with breath and then how this same breath is released back to the world. As thoughts arise, notice if and where they reside in your body. Notice where you feel tension, and observe your reactions and responses. Use the questions below to guide your teshuvah practice. Spend time with each question and invite yourself to write your most honest answers. This is your practice, your life, and your opportunity to bring your entire self to the process. Whenever your mind inevitably wanders or wavers (which is what minds do), bring yourself back to this work and this paper in your hands. See the holiness in the task at hand, your role in creating the life you want to live and the capacity that you hold at every moment. With every breath, you can use the practice of teshuvah to return, reflect, forgive, and move forward.
Over the past year, did I fully live my values? Did I treat other people how I would want to be treated? What do I most regret? What am I most proud of?
2. Seek Forgiveness
From whom must I ask forgiveness? To whom must I offer my forgiveness (regardless of outcome)?
3. Letting Go & Moving Forward
How can I release myself from any residue of the past year? What do I want to practice, seek, or commit myself to this year?
May we all be blessed with a sweet & meaningful New Year.
Hold onto what is good
Even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold onto what you believe
Even if it is a tree that stands by itself.
Hold onto what you must do
Even if it is a long way from here.
Hold onto life
Even if it seems easier to let go.
Hold onto my hand
Even if I have gone away from you.
Hear, Oh Israel,
The universe is one.
All humanity is one.
And you shall love your fellow humans
With all your heart
And all your soul,
And all your might!
These words inscribe on your heart
And on your doorposts.
Repeat them and teach them to your children
By day and by night.
Teach them to revere all life.
Nearly all Jewish holiday begin with lighting candles, and so this one will, too. After we light the candles we wave our hands in three big horizontal circles to symbolically bring the light closer to us, and then cover our eyes while we say the blessing. When the blessing is over take a moment of silent reflection with your eyes covered, and then open your eyes and enjoy the beauty of candlelight, bringing you into the new year.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁלְיֹוםטֹוב
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam
asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe,
who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to light festival candles.
Wine or grape juice are also standards of nearly every Jewish holiday. Before we eat we take a moment to say a blessing over a glass of wine. In this special version Rosh Hashanah is called Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembering, and Yom Truah, the Day of Calling Out. Tonight during our meal we will do some remembering, and some calling out. We will also focus on the gratitude we feel for the past year, and all of the blessings that it contained. L’chaim!
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּֽפֶן
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’ olam borei peri hagafen.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine.
The shehechiyanu blessing thanks the creator for giving us life, sustaining us, and allowing us to reach this day. This blessing is said at momentous occasions, and tonight counts because it is the night when we can finally look back on the whole previous year. We made it! Whether bitter or sweet, difficult or fun, tonight we celebrate and feel grateful for making it to today, and to this table to reflect with people we care about.
בָּרוּך אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וקְִיְמָּנוּ והְִגִיּעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.
Finally, time to begin eating! Challah is a yummy egg bread eaten on most Jewish holidays. On Rosh Hashanah the challah is in the shape of a circle, to symbolize the circle of time, and the fullness of the year that is coming. Many people eat raisin challah on Rosh Hashanah, and drizzle honey on top of it, for extra sweetness. Yum!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
הַמּֽוֹצִיא לֶֽחֶם מִן הָאָֽרֶץ
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam,
hamotzi lekhem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God,Ruler of the universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.
The quintessential Rosh Hashanah treat is apples and honey. Take a sweet, crisp, apple and dip it in some honey. Before eating we say a mini-blessing, hoping that the year to come will be tova umetukah, good and sweet!
Pick up a slice of apple, dip it in honey, and say:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam borei pri ha-eitz.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the tree.
Yehi ratzon lifanecha, Adonai Eloheinu, v'Elohai avoteinu, she'te'hadesh aleinu shanah tovah u'metukah.
May it be Your will, Eternal our God, that this be a good and sweet year for us.
Eat the apple dipped in honey.
Maximum Pun Time. Get creative with puns in English to bring to your Rosh Hashanah table.
Do you wish that you will be the head and not the tail this year? Put a fish head on the table! Want to pare away your sins in the coming year? Eat a pear! Put a raisin with a stalk of celery if you’re hoping for “a raise in salary.” This is your time to be as creative as you’d like. Go craisin-y!
We all have thoughts and feelings from the past year that we’d like to get rid of or forget. During tashlich, we take some breadcrumbs and sprinkle them into a body of water, symbolically ridding ourselves of the sins and bad feelings that have been weighing us down. Now we can go into the new year with a clean slate.
We’ve done lots of looking backward, but now is the time to think forward. What are we hoping to accomplish in the coming year? What are we afraid of, and what are we excited about? What is one thing we hope to have accomplished by next Rosh Hashanah? Go around the table and lay out some goals for the year to come.
If you have a shofar, blow it now! If not, make some noise some other way. Belt out a song or try a primal scream. Do what you need to do to feel jarred, and awoken.