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Contemporary Shiviti

A shiviti is a visual tool designed to aid Jewish meditation, either as a prelude to liturgical prayer or as a contemplative practice all its own. (Learn more at this shiviti page at OpenSiddur.) The name shiviti comes from Psalm 16:8, שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָ”ה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִי / shiviti YHVH l’negdi tamid, “I place God before me always.”

Steve Silbert has created a contemporary shiviti inviting the person who is praying to look inward.

Find more High Holiday liturgy from Bayit at:


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!

Source : Original Illustration from
Candle Lighting


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, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe,
who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to light festival candles.


People have celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a festive gathering since Talmudic times. Weaving together symbolic foods with the familiar structure of a seder helps us start the new year mindfully. 

During this brief seder, we’ll make four toasts together and find opportunities for blessing and reflection. Each toast is centered on a way of understanding Rosh Hashanah - as a day of reawakening, of judgment, of remembrance and of recreation. The choice of beverage is up to you!


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.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam asher bakhar banu m'kol am, v'romemanu m'kol lashon v'kidishanu b'mitzvotav. Vatiten lanu Adonai Eloheinu b'ahava et Yom HaShabbat ha'zeh v'et)Yom HaZikaron ha'zeh. Yom zichron teruah b'ahava mikra kodesh, zekher le'yitziat mitzrayim. Ki vanu vakharta v'otanu kidashtah m'kol ha'amim, u'devarkha emet v'kayam la'ad.
Barukh atah Adonai melekh al kol ha'aretz, mekadesh haShabbat v'Yisrael v'Yom HaZikaron. 

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen us from among all peoples and sanctified us with God's commandments. And You gave us, Adonai our God, in love this Sabbath day and this Day of Remembrance. It is a Day of Remembrance a day for recalling with love the sounding of the Shofar, a sacred convocation, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. For You chose us and sanctified us from among all peoples, and Your word is truth and endures forever.
Blessed are You, Ruler over all the earth, who sanctifies the Sabbath and Israel and the Day of Remembrance.


Our first toast is to Yom Truah, the Day of Reawakening.  “Truah!” shouts the shofar, blasting the alarm buried in your soul. The shofar wakes us up, and it amplifies our voices, making our prayers heard. Move in your body, stand in your power and be loud. 

Together, we raise a glass and make a Toast to Reawakening from Psalm 118: 
“From the narrowness of distress, I called to God; and God answered me with the breath of Divine relief. You have heard my voice; do not shut Your ear.”  

Blessing for Hearing the Shofar 
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lishmoa kol shofar.
We praise You, Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who has made us holy with commandments, and who has commanded us to hear the voice of the shofar.

Reflection Questions for Yom Truah - Day of Reawakening
When was I asleep in the past year? 
What do I want to be alert to in the year to come?

Source : Rebecca Missel

High Holidays in Five Senses 

As the light and the weather shift in this sacred time of transition, we're invited to enter a new season and a new year. Take a deep breath as you consider how each of your senses connects to the High Holidays.

What do the High Holidays smell like? 

They smell of freshly-baked sweet challah, the vanilla-y pages of an old book, your grandfather’s aftershave, the tang of the etrog and the perfume of lulav branches.

What do the High Holidays feel like?  

They feel like fists beating on chests, shifting your tush on a wooden pew in an unairconditioned sanctuary, running your fingers through the fringes of a tallit, dropping crumbs into the water as you cast your sins away, sticky honey dripping onto your fingers.

What do the High Holidays taste like?  

They taste of honey, pomegranates, apples, dates, carrots and squash, sweet challah with raisins, tsimmes and taiglach, shirin polo and khoresh fesenjan, hoppin john and greens.

What do the High Holidays look like?

They look like a room of people wearing their best new outfits, palm branches carefully placed on top of a tiny hut, the entire scroll of the Torah unrolled and encircling everyone, your grandmother’s china hauled out from its secure hiding place and arranged on the table.

What do the High Holidays sound like?

They sound like the blast of the shofar, the crunch of newly-fallen leaves, the mumbles of people stumbling through prayers said sporadically, shouts of “Shana tova!” and hymns at once deeply familiar and utterly foreign.


The shehechiyanu blessing thanks the creator for giving us life, sustaining us, and allowing us to reach this day. This blessing is said at momentous occasions, and tonight counts because it is the night when we can finally look back on the whole previous year. We made it! Whether bitter or sweet, difficult or fun, tonight we celebrate and feel grateful for making it to today, and to this table to reflect with people we care about.

בָּרוּך אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וקְִיְמָּנוּ והְִגִיּעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה

Barukh ata adonai elohenu melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.

Challah Blessing
Source : Trisha Arlin

As we wash our hands
We pray,
Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,
Breathing us in and breathing us out.
May our breaths continue
And our health and the health of all
Be preserved
In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
Holy Wholeness,
We take as much responsibility for this as we can
By observing the obligation to wash our hands
For as long as it takes to say this prayer.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם

Barukh atah adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al netilat yadayim

Blessed are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with God's commandments and instructed us on washing hands 

Challah Blessing

We begin our meal with Motzi--as we acknowledge the Source of our abundance. It is customary to use a round challah. The round challah symbolizes the cyclical nature of our world and of our lives. Some people have the custom of adding raisins to the challah to give it a little more sweetness.

How are we bringing sweetness into our new year even as our world and our lives have been so drastically changed?

What can we each do to bring sweetness to the world?

Challah Blessing
Apples & Honey Blessings

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.

Symbolic Foods

Since the start of the month of Elul 30 days ago, our internal calculators have been in overdrive. Cheshbon haNefesh means an accounting of the soul, reflecting on a whole year of triumphs and mistakes and asking for forgiveness as we work to forgive others. We look backwards in order to move forward. 

Together, we make a toast to Recommitment, Judgment, Justice and Transparency, adapted from Rami M. Shapiro: 
"Today we stand before the Mirror of All, to see ourselves as we are. We come with no gifts, no bribes, no illusions, no excuses, no defenses. We come with error and needless pain, but also joy and remembered moments of love and right doing. Let us be bold enough to see, humble enough to feel, daring enough to turn and embrace the way of justice, mercy and simplicity."

Blessing to Pursue Justice:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu ruach ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu lirdof tzedek.
We praise You, Eternal God, Spirit of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to pursue justice.

Reflection Questions for Yom HaDin - Day of Judgment
From whom do I need forgiveness? 
Who do I need to forgive?

Symbolic Foods
Source : Jessica Tamar Deutsch
Rosh Hashanah Seder Plate Foods (Simanim)

Illustration by Jessica Tamar Deutsch displaying the traditional simanim

Symbolic Foods

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 black-eyed peas or 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.

Looking Back / Tashlich

Rituals are the place where we blend memories, identities and meaning. Rosh Hashanah is known as a day of remembrance - a monumental moment - where we sit in the balance between past and future. We remember our ancestors and our actions as we reflect on what they have taught us. 

Together, we raise a glass and make a toast to Remembrance with this quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel: 
“The authentic individual is neither an end nor a beginning but a link between ages, both memory and us, recollection is a holy act; we sanctify the present by remembering the past. To us Jews, the essence of faith is memory. To believe is to remember.” 

Blessing of Memory
Zichronam livracha, tzedek v’shalom 
May the memories of those we have lost be for a blessing of righteousness and peace.

Reflection Questions for Yom HaZikaron - Day of Remembrance
Where did I dedicate my time, energy and resources in the past year? 
Who and what do I want to remember from the past year?

Looking Back / Tashlich

Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to go down to the water and toss our bread crumbs or seeds or dissolving rice paper as symbols of casting out our sins. While this time can be contemplative and a wonderful viseral catharsis, it can also feel awkward to do as a group. It can be hard to think on the spot of what you are casting away, and it can be hard to measure year to year if we have made progress.

Tonight, we will write letters to ourselves and next year on selichot we will reopen them. Your letter should be your apologies to yourself and to God. At this point, I hope you have done your due diligence to make teshuvah to the people in your life that you have hurt, or you will do so in the coming ten days before Yom Kippur. This letter cannot make teshuvah for you to others. It is personal and private, and expressing your regret to yourself for hurting someone else is not teshuvah. However, even after proper teshuvah is done, there can be lingering hurts and regrets, and those are okay to put in this letter. Write down any way that you've missed the mark on being your best self in the past year, and how you want to see yourself grow in the coming year.

Then we will seal this in an envelope and put them someplace safe. I will remind you next year before tashlich to find and open them to see how you succeeded in growing and bettering yourselves.

Looking Forward

Like people, the Universe has a birthday and it falls on Rosh Hashanah. And like our birthdays, it’s a moment for us to dwell in a moment of renewal and recreation. We open ourselves up and rewrite our stories and our aspirations for the next year. 

As we close our Rosh Hashanah seder, we make a fourth and final toast to Recreation, adapted from Emily Stern:
“Each moment is a microcosm of who we are becoming. We bless each other and ourselves, celebrating our moments of gratitude. We bring presence and positivity into our hearts, and clarity about the truest, most authentic version of ourselves that, we pray, will find expression and aliveness in the coming year. We act as conscious co-creators with The Creator.”

Blessing of Creation 
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, oseh maasei v’reishit. 
We praise You, Eternal God, Spirit of the universe, who makes the works of creation. 


Reflection Questions for HaYom Harat Olam - Day of Recreation 
What do I want to practice, seek or commit myself to for the year to come? 
What do I want to create for myself and the world?

Looking Forward
Source :
Blessing for Pursuing Justice

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu ruach ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu lirdof tzedek.

We praise You, Eternal God, Spirit of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to pursue justice.


Calligraphy & Art by: Ruben Shimonov 
Blessing from


We’ve done lots of looking backward, but now is the time to think forward. What are we hoping to accomplish in the coming year? What are we afraid of, and what are we excited about? What is one thing we hope to have accomplished by next Rosh Hashanah? Go around the table and lay out some goals for the year to come.