One of the biggest surprises as an expat in Israel was the Rosh HaShana holiday. New Year in September? Really? I thought all the people in the world celebrate it in December. Apparently not. In Israel people celebrate the first day of the Jewish Year in September and sometimes in October; it depends when 1 Tishrei falls (yes, they also have different name for the months). But except for the holidays, only the religious people follow the Jewish calendar.
Rosh HaShana means “The Head of the Year” and it’s a two-day celebration. This holiday is known as the anniversary of the creation of the world and of Adam and Eve and their first action towards the fulfillment of the role that God have to humans. The 5775th year in the Jewish calendar began at sundown on this last Wednesday.
For those of you who don’t know anything about the Judaism, this is a monotheistic faith, meaning that Jews believe there is only one God. Judaism teaches that every person (Jewish and non-Jewish) was created “in the image of God”. For this reason, every person is equally important and has an infinite potential to do good in the world. People have the freewill to make choices in their lives and each of us is responsible for the consequences of those choices.
Now when you say New Year you automatically think of wild parties, dancing till dawn, champagne and fireworks. At least this was how it’s celebrated in Romania.
But no, not here.
So how do they actually celebrate?
- They meet for dinner with all the family members in the evening before the holiday
- They go to synagogue, reflect on life and spend time with family
- They bring and give to each other presents
- They eat all kind of symbolic food like honey and apple – actually many people wish you a good & sweet year. They also have two loaves of bread, knows as challah, which stands for the circle of life and the hope that our lives can bear endless sorrow.
- All kind of other stuff are being eaten depending of the origins of the people: Ashkenazim – the Jews from Europe – have different customs and food than the Sephardim – the Jews from Africa and the Arab countries. While the Ashkenazim eat gefilte fish, the Sephardic ones serve a whole fish as a wish for prosperity, good luck and fertility for the coming year. Some Jews also present fruit baskets covered to hide the contents, symbolizing that no one can know what the New Year will bring.
- They blow the shofar (a ram’s horn). This holiday is called the Feast of the Trumpets and the blowing of the shofar proclaims Rosh HaShana and summons Jews to religious services. Jews used the ram’s horn as a trumpet in Biblical times to announce the new moon, holidays and war. Today, there is variety of horns used (that includes curved antelope horns).
That was the light guide for the people that live abroad and have no idea about all these Israeli/Jewish holidays.
For all my Jewish friends, who need no information about this festival or celebration, I just want to wish you a happy New Year and to share with you what I have read in a very dear book to me “The language of letting go”.
“Make New Year’s goals. Dig within and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part.
Goals give us direction. What would you to have in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks or character defects would you like to have removed?
What would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life?
What problems would you like to be solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career?”
The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in the book, waiting to be written. We can help write that your best life story is setting the right goals, the ones that would make you happy. Shana Tova everyone! For new beginnings!