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The first Shabbat of the year is often called Shabbat Shuvah, a Sabbath of Return. A sort of spiritual time machine where we can reflect on the past year, look at where we missed the mark and repair our relationships. It's also our first opportunity in the new year to celebrate Shabbat. Consider this your invitation to take a breath and savor the moment.
Want more Shabbat Shuvah inspiration? Check out our booklet of rituals and reflections perfect for this moment:
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.
It's the first Shabbat of the New Year! Transform your space by lighting Shabbat candles and taking a moment to look into the flames. Think about something you're looking forward to in this year that has just begun. Then, circle the flames with your hands three times and cover your eyes as you recite the blessing. Shabbat Shalom!
בָּרוּך אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל שַבָּת
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, whose mitzvot add holiness to our lives and who has given us the mitzvah to kindle the lights of Shabbat
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam borei p'ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine
B'rucha At yah Eloheinu Ruach ha'olam boreit p'ri hagafen.
You are blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the vine.
N’vareykh et Eyn Hahayim matzmihat p’ri hagefen.
Let us bless the Source of Life that ripens the fruit on the vine.
Handwashing is an ancient Jewish practice used to make us pure for a holy moment. As we prepare to eat our first Shabbat meal of the New Year, take a moment to feel the water as it flows over your hands. Dry your hands as you say this blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, whose mitzvot add holiness to our lives and who has given us the mitzvah of washing hands.
On Rosh Hashanah and throughout the High Holiday season, we eat challah in the shape of a circle, to symbolize the circle of time, and the fullness of the year that is coming. Many people add even more sweetness to their first challah of the new year by adding apples and raisins or by drizzling honey or jam on top.
As you take a bite, share with others around the table how you hope to bring sweetness into the world in the New Year.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
הַמּֽוֹצִיא לֶֽחֶם מִן הָאָֽרֶץ
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam,
hamotzi lekhem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God,Ruler of the universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.
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.
We close our Shabbat Shuvah meal with an opportunity to share. Each person around the table is invited to answer one or more of these questions as they reflect on this new year that's just begun.
Notice: What do you want to notice, to occupy your attention during the next year?
Nearness: What do you want to bring nearer to you in the year ahead?
Nurture: What values and intentions do you want to nurture?
No matter who you're celebrating with, use this blessing to send a message of love and peace to those you care about.
May you feel love and security wherever you go.
May you radiate with light and gratitude throughout your days.
May a spirit of amazement reside within you always, and may you find peace.