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A New Year | blog.deanland.com

A New Year

A New Year

Rosh Hashanah is here yet again. For Jews all over the planet, this means a new year. Actually, to be more specific, it celebrates the creation of the world. Celebrated annually, it has come to be called the new year holiday. Actually, if it were known as Creation Day, that would be more apt. Although, to be technical, it is actually supposed to celebrate the 6th day of the week-long creation process.

This marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. These, along with Passover, represent the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar. Hanukkah is not as major a festival or meaningful celebration. Falling over the Gentile Holiday Season, though, it has grown into a celebration of greater import. And the gift-giving coordinates well with other religions and holiday exchanges of presents, so the magnitude seems greater.

Rosh Hashanah begins the Holiday season.

Unlike many of the Jewish holidays, this is not one that celebrates the history of the defeat of some oppressive force. An old joke goes like this:

Q: How can you sum up the story and celebration associated with nearly all the Jewish holidays?

A: They tried to kill us; we prevailed; now let's eat!

There are a variety of traditions that accompany the celebration of the new year. Two of those traditions are on my mind as this new year comes upon us.

First is the symbolic eating of apples and honey. Second is the symbolic casting away of misdeeds of the year past.

At first glance that apple might look like a cucmber slice, or even a lime.  But no, it is an apple, pits and all -- dripping with honey, to symbolize one's hope for a sweet and fruitful year.The apples and honey represent the fruits of the earth, some might go so far as to say also the sweetness of all that which is on earth for us to enjoy. Dipping slices of apples in honey, one festively celebrates this, and symbolically puts in a holiday request for a good and sweet year.

Of course, there are some of us who consider this a mean and sick joke being played on Diabetic Jews throughout the world. But one gets over such inanity. Life goes on.

Yummy.
In many observances of Rosh Hashanah it is customary to partake of a new food item, usually a new fruit. This is to invoke the image of newness and a fresh beginning, as is the embodiment of the holiday. The apple, reminiscent of the fruit of the Garden of Eden, is a reminder of the creation theme that infuses Rosh Hashanah. The honey, an ancient symbol of strength and a source of sweetness, represents the wishes for the coming year. Honey is also the sweet product of the collective within the beehive and therefore can be seen as symbolic of the potential sweetness and strength found within community.

The act of dipping the singular piece of apple into the honey bowl can be symbolic of one's self as an individual, and yet one who is also immersed within their community and all the positive aspects it contains.

Of course the children at a Rosh Hashanah table always see this as a neat opportunity to have a sweet treat during the festive meal!

The symbolic casting away of misdeeds is known as Tashlich. During the High Holy Days, at some point between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is customary to throw bread crumbs into a body of water. This is done as a symbolic act of repentance. Many Jews do Tashlich the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana.

Family and friends gather together at a waterfront to "cast off" the sins of the past year and resolve to live a better life in the year to come. This is not to be confused with Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. Tashlich is symbolic and meant as a personal betterment.

The symbolic throwing off of one's transgressions, casting bread crumbs into  a body of water.There are readings, of course, prayers said during Tashlich. These readings embody the concept of repentance ("teshuva") that is such a preodominant theme in the rituals and customs of Rosh Hashanah. Tashlich is a way to admit -to oneself and to others - one's own faults and to symbolically shed the baggage of last year's mistakes. The idea is that in the face of one's own personal conflicts, one will affirm their closeness to humanity and to God. Curiously, this is a relatively new custom in Jewish tradition. Sephardic Jews did not do this until they learned of it from the Ashkenazy. In certain older Orthodox traditions there were bans on Tashlich, in that Jewish men and women were not to consort by the water. Apparently this is one area in which the Orthodox have dropped the mixed gender prohibition.

This raises an interesting question: what to do if one is a landlocked Jew? No lake, no river, no ocean, no waterfront . . .what to do? The answer is simple: fill the tub, get some breadcrumbs, throw them in. Create a body of waterm do the symbolic act. In Jerusalem, where there is no running water people gather to do Tishlach at cisterns.

And what would any Jewish holiday be without a little humor to go along with it? The picture below showed up in my e-mail today. How appropriate!

Here's a question for you:  In Hip Hop Heimishe Households (the 4H club?) do they celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Apples and <i /><b>Homey</b>?

To those who observe the holiday, a happy one to you and yours.