Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rosh Hashanah, Not The New Years I Grew Up With

this year's "fruit head"
"May we be a head, not a tail." 
Yesterday, on Shabbat, I was at my usual shiur nashim, Women's Torah lesson, and the young man teaching us somehow got us to talking about the differences between Rosh Hashannah, the beginning of the Jewish Year, which starts actually in a few hours, and the New Year's celebrations I grew up with.

I can't say for sure that every American family of my generation was the same or that things have remained on the same keel until now, but I don't remember the secular New Year's as a family holiday. My parents sometimes entertained on New Year's Eve, but we kids weren't invited. we had to stay in a different part of the house and go to bed even early. The next day on the news we'd see celebrations from the night before. Well into my teens I did go on New Year's Eve dates a couple of times, but the partying seemed rather mechanical to me. At least for me it was more about imitating the party spirit. I sure didn't feel like it was anything special.

Even though my family as pretty assimilated, I do remember Rosh Hashanah being celebrated with some Jewish customs. We had a traditional meal with challah, honey, chicken soup and whatever else my mother considered as proper for Rosh Hashanah. I don't remember my father ever making kiddush, but I think they did serve some sweet red kiddush wine. We also went to our local shul and heard the shofar. I probably spent more time in shul than anyone else in the family, since I always enjoyed it and felt connected to what was happening. I guess it wasn't all that great a surprise when later on I did become Torah observant.

One of my earliest, if not the earliest Jewish themed memory is going with my father to Rosh Hashana prayers in a big tent in a parking lot of the Windsor Park garden apartments just west of Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY, where we lived when I was a child. I can still picture myself standing on the brown folding chair to see better. That was most probably the forerunner of the Oakland Jewish Center, before it had a proper building. Our section of Bayside was full of young Jewish families who, although may not have been all that religiously observant, but they wanted a synagogue that would be sufficiently traditional in which they'd feel comfortably Jewish. OJC was affiliated with United Synagogue Conservative Judaism.

Jewish Holidays, including Rosh Hashanah always have family friendly aspects, special food and child friendly prayers like the Shofar, ram's horn, which is blown in a specific way. Purim, Passover, Succot, Simchat Torah and Shavuot also are celebrated in a family inclusive fashion.

The season of the Jewish New Year begins a month before Rosh Hashanah, when we are supposed to begin repenting and thinking of what we did wrong in our observance of Judaism and behavior towards others, and how to do it better. Jewish News Year's resolutions are in the spiritual realm, not focusing just on things like "lose weight" and "get a better job."

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday for the entire Jewish Nation, and may this next year, 5776 be an absolutely wonderful one for all of us.

Good Health, Blessings, Joyous Events and Geula Shleimah, Complete Redemption!


Keli Ata said...

Shalom Batya. What a lovely post. I just wanted to share this beautiful video from Noam Jacobson. Israel never looked more beautiful.

Batya said...

Keli, thanks so much. Glad you like it.
have a good year