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From "Time to Reflect: A High Holidays-Inspired Workbook (for Grown-Ups)
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...
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.
Unetaneh Tokef is a medieval prayer, of unknown authorship, recited in the Musaf Service of both Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. Unetaneh Tokef affirms our own mortality, asking, “Who shall live and who shall die?” In it, we state that through teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer), and tzedakah (acts of justice) we can transform our destiny and give meaning to our lives.
We shall ascribe holiness...
Right before we begin Shabbat dinner, two uncut loaves of challah are uncovered. As they are raised, the following blessing is recited. After the blessing, the challahs are cut or torn into pieces which are distributed to everyone present. Some people lightly salt their piece of Challah before eating it,
comparing it to a divine offering from temple times.
Baruch ata Adonai,...
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...
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...
A beautiful ceremony marks the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening. This ending ritual is called Havdalah, which means separationor distinction in Hebrew. The Torah teaches that God created the world by making distinctions, first between light anddarkness, next between water and empty space, then between earth and water. The final distinction made in that week of creation was between regular time and holy time. Just as...
Expanding on the second question, Jewish tradition holds every living thing (and even inanimate objects) as containing a certain amount of wonder, as if there is a secret hiding inside of everything, yearning to be recognized, revealed and even protected. In our tradition, trees are to be respected. Just as there are human rights and animal rights, there are tree rights. For instance, you can't just wantonly chop down a...
Introduce yourself to the people sitting on either side of you. Share a blessing that you received over the past week with them (“I had really great luck with parking spots today” “I got a good grade on a big exam this week” “I made it to exercise class three times this week and it felt wonderful and empowering”). If you can’t think of anything, just say, “I made it through the week to Shabbat!” After...
ASK YOURSELF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Like a mini-spiritual workout! You don’t have to answer every question, but tackling a few is impactful.
1) When do I feel that my life is most meaningful?
2) What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
3) What are my three most significant achievements in the past year?
4) What are my biggest mistakes in the past year?