September not only brings the excitement of a fresh school year and the closing of a missed summer, but also the most joyous and significant times of the year for many. Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall in the midst of this chaos, gathering families and friends to reflect on our past year and look forward to the next.
Upon entering a family party or synagogue, one may exclaim "L’Shanah tovah!", which denotes ‘For a good year.' Rosh Hashanah comes on the first and second day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish year. Presented as the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah literally translates to “head of the year” or “first of the year." For most, this is a time of reflection and a time of resolution. Many attend synagogue where they listen to the sound of the shofar, a ram's horn, which is blown as commanded in the Bible to represent G-d’s commandments and sacrifices. Other traditions include eating apples dipped in honey, where the honey represents the welcoming of a sweet new year. Additionally, many bring small stones and even pieces of bread to local rivers or other water sources. Known as “Tashlikh”, or the ‘casting off’, this tradition embraces throwing stones into a river as a way of throwing our sins away for the preparation of a new year.
Considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur falls on the tenth day of Tishri. Regarded as the “Day of Atonement”, Yom Kippur deems the affliction of our sins from the past year. Essentially, Yom Kippur marks the final day of the year to confess past regrets and ultimately acknowledge amends for the future. It is customary to wear white as a representation of our purity and the promise that our past sins shall now be “made as white as snow." Honoring our actions, one refrains from eating and drinking for the 25-hour span of the holiday. Breaking the fast is usually done with a large group of family and friends. It draws us from our thoughts of sins and promotes new ideas of change and optimism.
Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer times of reflection, acceptance, and change. As we look forward on the new school year, I encourage us all to keep these factors in mind.
Wishing all who celebrate a happy and healthy new year, filled with memorable times cherished with family and friends.