Tuesday, 18 September 2012


“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” - Edith Lovejoy Pierce

The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah is a high Holy Day as it is regarded as the birthday of creation. In 2012 Rosh Hashanah began in the evening of Sunday, 16 September 2012, and ended in the evening of Tuesday, 18 September 2012. Rosh Hashanah is also a day of memorial, recalling to mind personal acts and reviewing events occurring since the beginning of time. Synagogue services express hope for the future and feature the story of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac. God’s providence is commemorated by the blowing of the ceremonial ram’s horn, the shofar.

At home, special prayers are recited for a good year ahead and wishes are pronounced over an apple dipped in honey, with the intention being for the year to be as sweet.  Special round, smooth loaves of bread are baked symbolising the smooth and prosperous New Year to be.  Orthodox Jews observe the festival for two days. The holiday also marks the start of the Ten Days of Repentance.  Sabbath-like restrictions on work for both days (today and tomorrow) in both Israel and the Diaspora.

Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, to symbolise a sweet new year. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local minhag (“custom”), such as the head of a fish (to symbolize the “head” of the year). The Sephardi and Mizrahi communities hold a “Rosh Hashanah seder” during which blessings are recited over a variety of symbolic dishes. The blessings start with the phrase “Yehi ratzon”, meaning “May it be thy will”. In many cases, the name of the food in Hebrew or Aramaic represents a play on words or pun. The Yehi Ratson platter may include apples (dipped in honey, baked or cooked as a compote called mansanada); dates; pomegranates; black-eyed peas; pumpkin-filled pastries called rodanchas; leek fritters called keftedes de prasa; beets; and a whole fish with the head intact. It is also common to eat stuffed vegetables called legumbres yaprakes.

Some of the symbolic foods eaten are dates, black-eyed peas, leek, spinach and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud. Pomegranates are used in many traditions, to symbolise being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds. The use of apples and honey, symbolising a sweet year, is a late medieval Ashkenazi addition, though it is now almost universally accepted. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year. Gefilte fish and Lekach are commonly served by Ashkenazic Jews on this holiday. On the second night, new fruits are served to warrant inclusion of the shehecheyanu blessing.

Happy New Jewish Year to all readers of this blog who celebrate this holiday!

No comments:

Post a Comment