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Happy New Year! Traditionally, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is a time of introspection and reflection. We examine what we appreciate from the year that has passed and what we hope to change in the year to come.
If you've hosted any kind of dinner gathering, you can host a Rosh Hashanah seder. This gathering can be as simple or as complex as your time allows. This booklet is here to help you make it easy and meaningful.
Hosting a more meaningful Rosh Hashanah dinner is possible - and easy! Here's our top 5 tips to make it happen, even if you only have 10 minutes.
1. Each Passover we ask, "why is this night different from all other nights?" Your Rosh Hashanah dinner is another opportunity to decide to do things a little differently. What's special about tonight? You might be embracing the opportunity to be in community, marking this sacred moment in the Jewish calendar, or eating together as a way of being present.
2. Include a small ritual around gratitude. Offer a traditional blessing of thanks, a spontaneous blessing for those gathered around the table, or invite everyone to share something they're grateful for.
3. Embrace what you know and love. There's many Rosh Hashanah rituals you can incorporate into your seder such as lighting candles, washing your hands, blessing wine, eating new fruits or apples with honey. Bring something familiar into your seder.
4. Create a new tradition. Rosh Hashanah is all about reflecting on the year that has passed and looking forward to the new year. You can bring these elements into your seder by - making a toast to the new year; offering a rose, thorn and bud to the past year; viewing a video reel or digital photo album to relive your year's highlights; or sharing intentions.
5. Don't forget the food! Your Rosh Hashanah seder is the perfect time to include special foods on the menu. Traditional options include round challah, foods sweetened with honey or agave, and symbolic foods like black-eyed peas, greens and pomegranates. Or, try making a special dish you grew up eating for the High Holidays. With the Northern Hemisphere shifting seasons, embrace pumpkin, spices and all the foods that taste like fall.
However you celebrate your Rosh Hashanah dinner - make this one to remember!
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.
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.
As we wash our hands
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
In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
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
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.
For Ashkenazi Jews, the primary symbolic food of Rosh Ha-Shanah is apples dipped in honey, a way of wishing for a sweet new year. Before eating apples and honey, say the following blessings:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam borei pri ha-eitz.
Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, who creates 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, Adonai our God, to grant us a good and sweet year.
Illustration by Jessica Tamar Deutsch displaying the traditional simanim
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.
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.