The Jewish fall holidays are approaching, and with that come questions, from people of all faiths: What does it mean? For me, the answers are ingrained, but today, I offer a few insights to those seeking some basics. Rosh Hashanah
, a.k.a. the “Jewish New Year,” literally means “head of the year,” in Hebrew. It’s a solemn beginning of the Jewish calendar year, a time for contemplation and renewal. (If you’re interested in the Jewish calendar, go to http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm
) Pronounced “rashashanuh” or “rohsh ha-shah-nah,” it begins this year at sundown on Oct. 2. Traditional foods are apples and honey, round challah with raisins, honey cake, pomegranates, pumpkins and other round foods, sweet foods and foods that are gold-colored, like carrots. Many Jews who attend synagogue on Rosh Hashanah enjoy the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn) to signal the new year. Some Jews send New Year's cards.
, pronounced “yohm kee-poor” or “yohm kipper,” this year starting the evening of Oct. 11, is the “day of atonement,” and includes fasting and prayer in contemplation of the rights and wrongs we have been responsible for the previous year. After the fast, many families and friends join for a meal. (Children under age 13 and people whose health might be harmed don't fast.) The day is traditionally spent in synagogue and many Jews who do not regularly attend services do for Yizkor – a special memorial service - to honor dead relatives. Most importantly, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we try to repair relationships and make apologies for any bad behavior or pain we have caused. You can say “Shanah Tovah,” Hebrew for Happy New Year, to wish your Jewish friends a good holiday. Whatever your faith, I wish you one as well.
– Helen Susan Edelman, LiveSmart Project Director, email@example.com
Times Union - Edited and written by Helen Edelman