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Celebrating the Jewish Year - Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a fall holiday. It is both a time of rejoicing and of serious introspection, a time to celebrate the completion of another year while also taking stock of one's life. The two days of Rosh Hashanah usher in the Ten Days of Repentance, also known as the Days of Awe, which culminate in the major fast day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
As with most Jewish holidays, food is the focus of home celebrations of Rosh Hashanah. Families and friends gather for extended meals, which include traditional foods, such as apples and challah dipped in honey. Honey, a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year, also appears in other holiday foods, such astayglach...a honey and nut pastry...and honey cake. The challah, normally braided, is round, as a reminder of the never-ending cycle of life.
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah it is common to eat a "new fruit"...a fruit that participants have not tasted for a long time. This tradition has become a way literally to taste the newness of the year, by enjoying an unfamiliar food. Often, a pomegranate is used as the new fruit, as the pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot in the Torah. The tradition of eating a new fruit need not, however, be restricted to pomegranates. Instead, this ritual can be an excuse for scouting out the "exotic fruit" section of the produce department to find fruits that family members have not tasted.
For Yom Kippur, fasting is the central experience. This is the day at the conclusion of which, according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.
Everyone at the JCC wishes you and your loved ones a Sweet New Year!