Food For the Soul
Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the universe, the day G‑d created Adam and Eve, and it’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on the eve of Tishrei (Sept. 18, 2020) and ends after nightfall on Tishrei 2 (Sept. 20, 2020). The central observance is blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) on both mornings of the holiday (except on Shabbat), which is normally done in synagogue as part of the day’s services but may be done elsewhere for those who cannot attend.
Rosh Hashanah feasts traditionally include round challah bread (studded with raisins) and apples dipped in honey, as well as other foods that symbolize our wishes for a sweet year. Many people eat parts of the head of a fish or a ram, expressing the wish that “we be a head and not a tail.”
Other Rosh Hashanah observances include candle lighting in the evenings and desisting from creative work.
Together with Yom Kippur (which follows 10 days later), it is part of the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe, or High Holidays). Read more about Rosh Hashana on www.chabad.org.
Shabbat and Holiday candle lighting
Girls and all women who are in the house (or if there isn’t a woman in the house, the head of the household), light candles to usher in each night of the holiday. Writes Rabbi Menachem Posner: “Before the onset of the holiday on Friday afternoon and once again after night has fallen on Saturday night (from a pre-existing flame), we light festive candles to usher in the holiday. Whether they will be overlooking a grand ballroom, or sitting on a table set for one, our holiday candles bring sacred light and a festive glow to our holiday dinners.”
On Friday, September 18 light Shabbat/Holiday candles at 6:41 pm
On Saturday, September 19 light Holiday candles after 7:41 pm from a pre-existing flame
On Sunday, September 20 Holiday ends at 7: 39 pm
Mind Over Matter
Don’t’ be your own lawyer
As thinking human beings, we have an unlimited capacity to find excuses, to discover ingenious and innovative ways to distance the perpetrator from the act. We can blame it on youth, on old age, on parents, on children, on financial hardships, daily environs, psychological state. We can easily discharge anybody of any responsibility for any negative deeds that stain their hands.
We can all be wonderful advocates and lawyers for one another—and the Merciful One Above surely enjoys hearing such things.
But if you want to get ahead in life, don’t be your own lawyer.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Who will be the Moshiach?
The following are the criteria for identifying the Moshiach, as written by Maimonides: If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the “battles of G‑d”—such a person is the “presumptive Moshiach.” If the person succeeded in all these endeavors, and then rebuilds the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and facilitates the ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel—then we are certain that he is the Moshiach.
Have I got a Story
Celebrating Rosh Hashana alone
I’m an older woman, living alone, with health issues, and for those like me, this year will be unlike any before. I’ll be observing the holidays at home, by myself.
I’m used to davening at my local Chabad center, listening as the chazzan (cantor) does the “heavy lifting” of reciting the prayers, allowing my mind to wander at will, letting the rabbi make the service meaningful with his commentary, listening as the shofar is blown.
During services, I was more like a passenger than a driver. I got to look out the window and enjoy the scenery because I didn’t have to drive the car. This year everything will be different. But does different have to mean bad? Can’t something be different and good?
So, I decided to look for new ways to make this year fresh and exciting. And truly, shouldn’t we be doing this every year? Each year we stand before G‑d, asking Him to forgive our shortcomings, asking Him to view us favorably, asking Him to give us another year to grow and improve. Should this ever be done on autopilot?
It’s true, we are living in difficult times. But Chassidic tradition teaches that all experiences – even the difficult ones – are opportunities to reveal the goodness that exists within everything. G‑d put goodness in all His creations, but we have to choose to look for it. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but it’s always our choice.
This year I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone by circumstances I can’t control. Even if I wanted to, I can’t go on autopilot. But being the driver means that I’ll be in control of the journey. And that, I believe, is where the goodness lies within this very different holiday season. I will control the journey, and I am choosing to take the scenic route.
I’m looking forward to going at my own pace and taking time to think about what I’m reading. I’ve also started listening to musical renditions of the prayers we sing (you can find excellent ones on Chabad.org) to learn the melodies. I’ve called my local Judaica store and bought a shofar. My very own shofar!
It will be hard not being with my friends during the festive meals, and nothing can replace that, but I’ll make sure I have good company in the form of uplifting Jewish books. I’ve collected many excellent ones over the years, and my bookcases make me feel like the greatest Jewish minds in history are in the room with me, ready to teach and converse.
Yes, this year will be different. I’ve been given my driver’s license and handed the car keys. I can’t wait to get out on the road, open the windows, and enjoy the ride. May your own journey this season be healthy, smooth, and meaningful.
Condensed from an article by Karen Kaplan