Rosh Hashanah

L'shana Tova to all my Jewish friends!

The first holiday we are going to explore is Rosh Hashanah which is the Jewish festival of the New Year.  Rosh Hashanah actually means "Head of the Year" and is observed over two days.  This year Rosh Hashanah falls on September 5th and 6th and will celebrate the year 5774!   This holiday is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, who according to Jewish religion are the first man and woman.  Rosh Hashanah is also about Adam and Eve's (and also mankind's) relationship with their creator, God.

Rosh Hashanah is not a stay up and countdown the hours kind of New Year celebration with confetti and noise makers.  Instead it is a holiday of prayer and reflection.  It is a time to pray, focus on kindness, charity, stop bad habits, and think about the relationship between God and humanity.  When trying to think of a way to tie it to our own lives so that my children can wrap their minds around this concept, I think of New Year's resolutions.

My guys are only 6, 4 and 16 months, so I could not explain it as much as you can if your kids are a little older- so my explanation went a little like this: 

 Guys I want to talk to you about a holiday that is being celebrated soon.  It's called Rosh Hashanah and its the new year for people whose religion is Judaism.

 (What's Judaism is of course asked.)  I explain that it is a religion that we are going to try to learn about this year and that one of their Aunt and Uncle are Jewish so we should make sure we tell them  "L'shana Tova" which is hebrew for happy new year.  

So Guys for Rosh Hashanah this time of year is a time when those who celebrate it think about how they want to behave and maybe think about times they were naughty and how next time they could react differently.  It's also a really good time to try to do nice things for other people and hopefully make it a habit.  (The question of what's a habit inevitably comes up- so that is explained as well) 

One of the traditions of Rosh Hashanah that I wanted my kids to know is the throwing away of sins.  Traditionally a believer goes to a spring or river where fish are and recites the Tashlich prayers while emptying pockets of bread.   (More info on these prayers found here)   

 Feeding the very hungry fish.

Feeding the very hungry fish.

 The swans were also very interested in this tradition.

The swans were also very interested in this tradition.

This is a symbol of bad habits or sin that will be cast away for the new year so to start fresh.  We grabbed some of our bread and headed to the pond to feed the fish, who were extremely happy to help us explore the casting away of sins by devouring every last crumb we had offered.  The swans and ducks were also happy to help.  My children are young and the concept of sin is a hard one to grasp, so for them I said its kind of like throwing out when you have been naughty and letting the fish eat any angry or mean feelings we have left in us.

Our craft for this holiday was a homemade shofar.  According to chabad.org,  the central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar , the ram’s horn, which also represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king. The sound of the shofar is also a call to repentance, as Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man's first sin and the repentance thereof.  

 Our craft list included various sized funnels, plastic tubing, and washi tape for fun colors.

Our craft list included various sized funnels, plastic tubing, and washi tape for fun colors.

 Baby decided to check out the supplies.

Baby decided to check out the supplies.

The shofar is blown to remind followers to reconnect to God, and recommit to their own divine mission in this world.  The shofar is blown a minimum of 30 times and sometimes up to 100 times.  While the shofar is typically blown by a rabbi or a professional we decided to create our own shofar.  I realize this may not have been the ideal craft because little boys love to make noise and this craft surely does encourage that.  While I am all for happy noises and happy boys I think that I may have overlooked the fact that we are currently in an apartment living situation and our neighbors may not enjoy the blowing of the shofar as much as we have.  Also we had to cut down the size of our shofar because it looked less like a rams horn and more like something you may find at a college frat party- and that is not the lesson I was trying to teach today.  

 Working hard to make our shofar pretty. 

Working hard to make our shofar pretty. 

 Picture of a real shofar.

Picture of a real shofar.

 Practicing brass instrument blowing method into our shofar

Practicing brass instrument blowing method into our shofar

 Apples dipped in honey!

Apples dipped in honey!

My middle son has decided his favorite tradition of Rosh Hashanah is the eating of sweet foods.  It is tradition to eat sweet foods so that the year may be as sweet as honey.  While I saw some good looking recipes for honey cakes and breads, apples dipped in honey seemed to be what was suggested on every Rosh Hashanah site I found.  So our simple yet delicious snack for Rosh Hashanah was apples dipped in our local honey.  It was a sweet treat enjoyed by all three boys and a wonderful way to start our first experience with Rosh Hashanah.

 I think this is a look of approval.

I think this is a look of approval.

Please stay tuned because we will follow up with Yom Kippur-ten days after Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur and during these ten days is a time for continued reflection.  Thanks for reading and more to come!

For my main sources of information on Rosh Hashanah I used the sites chabad.org and reformjudaism.org.