Rosh Hashanah (pronounced rush-ah-shah-nah), as anyone brought up in a Jewish home will know, is one of the “big” Jewish holidays. It signifies the beginning of the New Year on the Jewish calendar and is, for the most part, a “happy” holiday. Yom Kippur (yahm-kip-or) a holiday that immediately follows Rosh Hashanah, is a “day of atonement” and a more solemn holy day. Even members of the Jewish faith who might not otherwise attend synagogue services, will try to make a point of going to temple on these two holidays.
As children, in what seems like a million years ago, I can remember that my “fashionista” friends and I walked to temple adorning one of the new fall school “outfits” we had literally begged our parents to buy for us in any given year. This, of course, was in the days when a “middle class” actually existed and the earned “allowance” of $25 could buy you three new school ensembles.
Alexander’s, on Fordham Road in the Bronx, was the place to get your money’s worth then, and Rosh Hashanah services was the goto occasion to parade around in one of those outfits and, of course, pray a little — not so much for atonement as for a sunny September day with low humidity. (God forbid you had to walk to temple, reach your destination with frizzy hair and ruin your fall fashion debut.)
And this was all OK. Because while the holiday is meant to be one of introspection and spiritual renewal, for others, as in many religions, it’s also a time to enjoy, celebrate life and be with friends and family. I can tell you from experience, btw, that weather-related prayers aren’t first on the list of those being answered.
The greeting of the day, as on many other days at synagogue is “L’shanah tovah” (la-shah-nah toe-vah.) It means “to a good life.” It is worth saying in any language, in any attire, and to anyone on Rosh Hashanah or any other day, as far as I’m concerned. It can’t hurt.
The most common symbol of Rosh Hashana is the Shofar (ram’s horn) which is blown in the synagogue. Not the most pleasant sounding instrument, its sound is unmistakable and could “wake the dead,” as my mother used to say. If, indeed you are one of the “walking” dead (of heart, that is,) the shofar is considered a “wake-up call” and reminds us to be charitable, to ask for forgiveness and to be forgiving. This can’t hurt either.
All of this shlepping to temple, parading around in the latest fashion trend, praying and meeting and greeting makes a Jewish family very hungry. And I must say, that if you’re invited for a Rosh Hashanah meal… go. You’ll thank me later. It’s just delish.
Here’s the menu: matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish (this can be a questionable gastronomic delight for some,) brisket, and kugel (koo-gull) — a baked noodle pudding/mixture that no one in their right mind would pass up, unless they had gluten issues. Braided challah bread, which signifies “continuity” is also served, as are apple slices which are dipped in honey before reaching your lips and which signify a blessing for a sweet New Year.
This meal, though incredibly tasty, spikes one’s glucose level and reminds you (and your hiatus hernia) why you only partake in it a couple of times a year. By the time you arrive home, you’re well sated, your sugar levels have taken a deep dive and you’re ready to go to sleep; that is, if your now activated hiatus hernia heartburn doesn’t keep you up all night. If you were fortunate enough to have someone else drive you home, you’ve already taken a nap, so you won’t really lose any beauty sleep.
For those of you who are reading this post — no matter what your religion — “l’shanah tovah!” May you have a year of good health, prosperity and peace sprinkled with a good many stress-free moments.
If you want to virtually wish your Jewish friends and family “a good year” during this important and meaningful holiday, send them an eco-friendly and elegant Rosh Hashanah ecard. Your thoughtfulness and good taste will make this holiday even more memorable for them. BTW, the dates change each year for this holiday, so be sure to check the calendar on the www.Unvelope.com homepage to see when in September the holiday falls.