Category Archives: Jewish Holidays

The High Holy Days

People often ask what we Jewish people do on the High Holy Days. What’s the Jewish New Year? “Do you have parties and fireworks?” And what’s the Day of Atonement? “Do you get absolved of all the things you’ve done wrong?” Let me see if I can provide some answers from my Reform Judaism and own point of you. Apologies already to my Orthodox friends who are much more observant than we are. This is bare bones here.

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Rosh Hashanah celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It’s in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar. Wikipedia says: Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn), as prescribed in the Torah. (Below is Moe practicing at our daughter’s in Seattle while we’re Skyping with our son and daughter-in-law’s family in California. Our granddaughter is in awe while I’m busting a gut.)

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Despite this moment of hilarity, the High Holy Days are very solemn. It is a time to look into your soul.

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People attend synagogue services and read special prayers and liturgy that has been read by our forefathers and mothers for thousands of years.

 

It’s also a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy delicious meals with symbolic and traditional foods. (This requires hours in the kitchen and sacrificing manicures!!!!)

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Here’s part of something I wrote for our Rosh Hashanah dinner this year.

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5778.

We celebrate

  • our love for family and all humanity,
  • our desire to help our fellow man,
  • our hope to be the best people we can be,
  • our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up. We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves. We slow down to take stock. We recite the prayers our great-great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on our heritage and connect with the generations before us. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are just human beings. Human beings who are moral at our core.

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On Yom Kippur, you fast from sundown to sundown. It is a time for prayer and reflection, a time to get back to your center—to listen to the still, small voice inside that knows right from wrong. As we did on Rosh Hashanah, we go to synagogue to pray together . We ask forgiveness from God for what we have done wrong, and ask for the wisdom to not make the same mistakes. We say memorial prayers for our loved ones who are no longer with us.

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At sundown, we once again gather to break-the-fast. Another time to be with family and eat traditional foods.

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This is not in any way a definitive explanation of the High Holy Days. Mostly it’s a glimpse into how the family Muscatel observes them.

Shalom. Peace. Amen.

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Resolving for 2015

 

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Since my birthday is December 28, I approach the new year with a double barrel wish to understand who I am in the present incarnation and what my goals are for the future. This year: Who am I at 69 years of age? And who do I want to be at 70?

But the end of December is a time of chaos for me—no time to contemplate, that’s for sure. Now we’re already a week into the new year, and I wondered if it was stupid to write down resolutions. Would I keep them anyway? Then I began to think about three small things I could do that would make my life better. I wouldn’t write them in a notebook, which I would close and they’d be hidden from view. I would write them on the computer, print them out and scotch tape them to my computer. That way I would see the list every day. Small things—doable things—things that would make me healthier in body, mind and soul—things I could work towards also.

So that’s what I did. Well, sort of. First I wrote them on paper. My mind works better through the pencil on these things. My list grew to 5 very rapidly. Here they are:

1. Be happy with myself at my age.

2. Stretch after my walk.

3. Eat healthy.

4. Think the thought that makes me feel good not the negative or fearful one.

5. Don’t be the Grandiose Co-Dependent.

So I admit some of these aren’t so small. But they are what ended up on the paper. Now I’ve in-putted the list, printed it and taped it up. I ‘ll let you know how it goes.

 

The Jewish New Year: 5775

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Rosh Hashana is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It translates from the Hebrew into Head of the Year. Several people have asked me what the holiday is like. For our family, we will have a big dinner at our house tonight and tomorrow we will go to the synagogue. At our dinner, we have a mini-service and eat the traditional foods from the recipes handed down through the generations. Apples and honey play a prominent part, symbolizing the sweet things of life. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown, signalling the ancients’ way of announcing the beginning of the holiday. At my house (once a teacher always a teacher) we will fill out a worksheet that asks, what can I do for my family, my community, and the world to make it a better place?

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Every year I write a little something. I will share with you this year’s.

 Rosh Hashanah   5775

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5775.

We celebrate

our love for family and all humanity,

our desire to help our fellow man,

our hope to be the best people we can be,

our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad things we have done. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect. Just like golf, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up.

We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves We slow down for a day to take stock. This is something our great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on the heritage and connect with the generations before us.. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are human beings who are moral at our core. We remember also to be grateful for what we have, especially our families and good health.

On Yom Kippur we ask for guidance and forgiveness of ourselves and of those who have wronged us. Every year we pray that all people can learn to do this so that hatred and prejudice will disappear. We pray that war will be no more—that people will not be power hungry and greedy. This year, we have seen the opposite. In Syria and in Gaza we saw that children were used as human shields. We saw many people cut down in war. We saw anti-semitism rear its ugly head. We saw ISIS emerge with its desire to control the world and destroy all people who do not believe exactly as they do. We saw prejudice and hatred against Blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities right here in our country. All this is troubling and frightening.

This year:

Our prayers for peace are even more important.

Our courage to stand up and be counted is even more important.

Our connection to each other is even more important.

Our commitment to learning the facts and not falling for stereotypes is even more important.

Life is a series of contrasts—the bitter and the sweet. Tonight, at the beginning of the year, we won’t worry about the bitter.

Tonight, it is all sweetness: HONEY and APPLES.