Rosh Hashanah – The Jewish New Year – Starts on Sunday, Sept. 29
The Jewish New Year is upon us.
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays and is the start of the 10 Days of Awe, which conclude with Yom Kippur (the day of repentance). I’ve written before about how while Chanukah is the best known of Jewish holidays – it’s certainly not one of the most important. Well, this is one of the holidays that qualifies in that category.
This is perhaps my favorite of the major Jewish holidays. Rosh Hashanah is all about cooking, eating, and being with family. Of course, it also means spending time praying in synagogue, seeing old friends and meeting new people, and saying special blessings. We get to hear — and sing — special melodies that are only played at this special time of year.
This holiday is about more than community and family – it’s a time of introspection and deep prayer.
It’s a time to celebrate – and a time to think.
Here’s what I’d like you to know about Rosh Hashanah, one of the most significant holidays on the Jewish calendar.
— Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birthday of the world. It’s an event that effects all humanity, and we like to celebrate — and celebrate big! There’s plenty of yummy treats, many of them involving honey.
— This year, the holiday begins on Sunday evening, Sept. 29. Some Jews will observe only one day of Rosh Hashanah; others will spend two days celebrating the holiday, depending on their own customs.
— Rosh Hashanah is a time to re-evaluate ourselves and our behavior in the past year. It is a time to reassess our goals, our dreams, how we treat others, and who we want to be. It’s a time “to live up to our own best standards,” said one rabbi I read.
— Rosh Hashanah (and Yom Kippur) is a time where we think about helping others. It is traditional to make offerings of charity. Many synagogues have food drives or ask for donations to local foodbanks; in our case, we donate to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. It also just so happens that September is Hunger Action Month, nationwide.
— On Rosh Hashanah, it is a mitzvah (commandment; good deed) to hear the blowing of the shofar. The shofar is a ram’s horn, and it is blasted as a call to worship (literally) and as a spiritual wake-up call. The blowing of the shofar is not easy; it takes a lot of practice (and good lungs). It is a joy to hear.
–No matter if they go to synagogue or not, most Jews will participate in the the most common Rosh Hashanah tradition: dipping apples in honey to celebrate the beginning of a “sweet” new year. (Locally, we are spoiled with Curtis Orchard honeycrisps and honey!)
— A common greeting for the holiday is “L’Shanah Tovah” or just “Shanah Tovah” (all Hebrew words). This wishes someone a happy new year.
— One of my favorite traditions for the New Year: buying new clothes. One of my strongest childhood memories is going shopping with my mom for the right High Holiday (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) outfits to wear to temple. It’s traditional to get new clothes to celebrate the new year. Of course, this is just a custom. Where I grew up, people dressed to the “nines” for the holidays; our local Jewish community is a bit more informal.
Where to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Champaign-Urbana
Sinai Temple, Champaign: The area’s only community synagogue will have two sets of services – Reform and egalitarian traditional minyan. There is programming for school-age children in the morning, as well as babysitting for younger children (must be reserved in advance). There’s also a family service at 2:30 pm on Monday. There are receptions but not formal meals. No tickets are required, and donations are welcome. Contact Sinai Temple for more information.
The Hillel Foundation at the University of Illinois: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox services available. Free and open to the public; meals are also served. Donations are welcome. For more information visit the Illini Hillel website.
Chabad at University of Illinois: Services are free and open to the public; meals are also served. For more information, visit its website.
Shanah Tovah U‘metukah — wishing all who celebrate a good and sweet new year!
Laura Weisskopf Bleill is the co-founder and editor of chambanamoms.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.