So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

Given the ever present covid warnings and the recommendation to pray outside, for Rosh Hashanah services, I went to the outdoor minyan that’s a short hop, skip, and jump from our apartment. The organizers had made a real effort to make it as comfortable as possible. There were even electric fans (on timers) to generate a decent cooling breeze. Still, at four hours plus, the first day’s service was too long. As one wit put it, “I wondered if they were actually planning on stopping for lunch.” On the second day, they shaved thirty plus minutes off that. So, long, but could have been worse.

Since moving to Israel, I have gradually ditched all the ArtScroll machzorim for Koren versions. The Rosh Hashanah machzor – the Rohr Family Edition – has a superb introductory essay by the late former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. What a great writer he was.

“These are days of reflection and retrospection when we stand in the conscious presence of Infinity, knowing how short and vulnerable life really is, and how little time we have here on earth. This can be, and should be, a life-changing experience.”

I cannot do justice to the essay here, but I do recommend you read it. Any Jew with a heart that reads the essay will be touched by it. It won’t turn a non-believer into a believer, but if read with an open mind, it will enrich your soul with an awe inspiring perspective on life, the universe, and our place on this planet. To put it another way, food for thought. And, for what it’s worth, I heartily thank the Rohr family for making the publication of that machzor possible. It’s a beauty. It played its part in spiritually enhancing the chag.

So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

Whatever you did for Rosh Hashanah, I hope you weren’t part of the shocking breach of covid lockdown in Melbourne. What arrogance. What selfishness. And where is the rabbinic leadership? The offenders should be named and shamed and banned from receiving honors for a few years. Should be, but won’t. Somebody should force them to read Sacks’ essay in the Koren machzor.

So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

[Echo warning.]

Whatever you did for Rosh Hashanah, I hope you weren’t part of the dozens of infected pilgrims caught returning from Uman with faked negative tests. What arrogance. What selfishness. And where is the rabbinic leadership? The offenders should be named and shamed and banned from receiving honors for a few years. Should be, but won’t. Somebody should force them to read Sacks’ essay in the Koren machzor.

It seems to me that there are too many elements of organized religious Jewry that have lost their way. Not all. Not most. Some. But even one is a disgrace and brings opprobrium down upon the larger Jewish community. Change is badly needed.

Sephardi Rosh Hashanah

From the Point of No Return:

The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow evening with blessings for a sweet New Year. Jews of Sephardi and Mizrahi origin will do more than eat apple and honey: they will have a whole range of different foods.

[snip]…here is what you need for a typical Sephardi seder, together with the blessings recited for each food. Note that the foods can vary from table to table: for instance, French beans are often eaten instead of white beans, etc…

See the rest, here.

This Sephardi tradition for Rosh Hashanah is one we have, thankfully, been able to participate in ever since we made aliyah, thanks to Susan’s family. We enjoy it. It adds something to the usual – dare I say it – bland apple and honey treatment. (But we do enjoy that, too!)

Whatever you do, in case I forget, may you have a sweet, happy, and healthy 5775. Shanah Tovah!

 

A tip for shofar blowers

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Olve Utne

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Olve Utne

Background

An important part of Orthodox Jewish observance over Rosh Hashanah is hearing the shofar being blown. Other significant aspects of the observance are refraining from dealing (or touching) money, not using electrical items – like TV, computer, and phone, not driving or traveling in a car, and not writing. That’s a simplification, but it will do for the purposes of explaining the following scene.

The Scene

A non religious woman is walking along Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, in the early afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. As she is passing a hotel where there a lot of very religious Jews staying, one of them asks her if she has heard the shofar.¬† When she says she hasn’t, he invites her to sit while he rounds up some of his chums for an impromptu shofar blowing.

I witness this scene, just passing the small crowd as the last of the shofar sounds (making quite a racket) is made. The woman’s face is beaming at the kindness shown to her. The shofar blowers and their supporters are equally happy at having performed this mitzvah for the woman.

She oh so badly wants to show her appreciation. She goes into her handbag and takes out a note to tip the crew and thank them. Cue running away by the shofar blowers. There’s no way they wanted to be anywhere near that money!

I think the poor woman eventually understood, but it was a moment of sharp contrast when worlds collided. And it was funny – regardless of your religious perspective.

[If you still don’t get it, read the background again. Or ask your local rabbi…]

Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Spot the greeting

So, tonight we start Rosh Hashanah, and it’s goodbye to 5772 and hello to 5773. What a year that was, and next year promises to be even more… interesting.

I’ve completed the introspection,¬†made my resolution, and am all set.

The girls have been busy in the kitchen. Delicious smells waft out to tempt me from the computer. But I need to get this done.

A sweet and happy New Year to you all; may it be a time of health and happiness. And peace. For everyone.

Shanah Tovah!