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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!
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.
There’s a lot of emphasis in Judaism on stopping to recognize special moments. Some do this in the form of a prayer or a blessing for the first time they are doing something new. Take a moment to learn this prayer, so the next time you find yourself in a first, you'll know what to say.
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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.
For centuries, Sephardi Jewish families have gathered to celebrate a special Rosh Hashanah ceremony with a plate or meal of symbolic foods. Each food is eaten after requesting a specific kind of Divine blessing that sounds like the name of that food in Hebrew.
Before eating dates ( tamar ):
May it be your will, God, that hatred will end. ( Tamar resembles the word for end, yitamu. )
Before eating pomegranate:
May we be as full of mitzvot as the pomegranate is full of seeds.
Before eating apple:
May it be Your will, God, to renew for us a good and sweet year.
Before eating string beans ( rubia ):
May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase. ( Rubia resembles the word for increase, yirbu. )
Before eating pumpkin or gourd ( k’ra ):
May it be Your will, God, to tear away all evil decrees against us, as our merits are proclaimed before you. ( K’ra resembles the word for tear and proclaimed, likroah. )
Before eating spinach or beet leaves ( selek ):
May it be Your will, God, that all the enemies who might beat us will retreat, and we will beat a path to freedom ( Selek resembles the word for retreat, yistalku ).
Before eating leeks, chives, or scallions ( karti ):
May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be cut off. ( Karti resembles the word for cut off, yikartu. )
Since Rosh Hashanah means the head of the year, we eat foods that symbolize our wish to be heads, not tails in the year to come. Traditionally, families ate the head of a fish or sheep. You may want to instead enjoy a head of lettuce, or a more whimsical option involves gummy fish.
May it be Your will, God, that our heads remain clear and focused on creating a better world this year.
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!