I have always found the scheduling of Rosh Hashana, Jewish New Years to be far superior to the nethertime after Christmas and the Winter Solstice. Rosh Hashana better aligns with the autumn, the new school year and you get to enjoy it in pleasant weather for the most part. It starts a 10 day period called the Days of Awe where you take stock of your shortcomings and make amends before Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashana is celebrated with a feast that symbolically aligns us to the holiday’s purpose. A special round challah (gluten free recipe here) celebrates the cycle of the seasons. Size isn’t important, so if you are eating paleo or are triggered by bread take just a tiny piece or buy a challah roll to divide. A fish head stew reminds us to align the brain with our practice, and carrots in the stew would be to lessen God’s judgement against us, based on the word in Hebrew. The many seeds of the pomegranate are to remember the 613 commandments, and to ensure fertility. Honey is used for the sweetness of the mitzvahs, but a dip of apple slices in a small amount of local honey will fulfill the symbolism with more health than a honey cake. Finally the feast is celebrated with a kiddush cup of wine or grape juice. The picture at the right also shows the shofar, a ram’s horn, used to herald the two days with a hundred blasts.
Brooklyn has a diverse richness found in few places and people form unlikely alliances. Two years ago, I was out on Seventh Avenue, the main street of Park Slope. The Reform Jewish Congregation Beth Elohim had roof trouble and had to move its Rosh Hashana services to Old First Reformed Church which is located on Seventh Ave. A Chabad Hasidic Jewish rabbi had brought his shofar to the street to convince non-observant Jews to practice rituals. He greeted the ushers, stopped in front of the church, sounded the shofar for the Reformed congregation, using the full range of four soundings, wished everyone a happy new year and continued on his way.
And in other New Years activity, a shofar flash mob at Lincoln Center from Art Kibbutz NYC: