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Tashlich
Tashlich

The Rosh Hashana tashlich ceremony is a tradition that is dear throughout the many diverse Jewish communities. Tashlich literally translates as “You will throw.” But what, exactly, is it?

Symbolic Foods
Symbolic Foods

Since Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment, it is customary to eat simanim,* foods with symbolic meanings that invoke God’s blessing. We also recite a short prayer before eating them. While apple with honey is a universal custom, other symbolic foods eaten depend on family custom. Here are some examples:

Selichot
Selichot

In addition to the unique prayer services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays are known for one other service: selichot. A collection of religious poems and verses, selichot are penitential prayers that help one focus on the mood of the season.

God’s Secret Things
God’s Secret Things

In a little over a week, Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, will be celebrated. While New Year’s celebrations are nice (the Jewish calendar actually has four of them!), Rosh Hashana’s significance is far greater than a mere New Year. It is, in fact known as Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment, and is a time when Jews focus on recognizing God as the King of Kings.

Founder of the Council
Founder of the Council

It is said that, by nature, women are social creatures. This social, when organized, can be an incredible life-force. This idea became reality when Hannah Greenbaum Solomon (1858-1942) created the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).

The Three Ts
The Three Ts

On Rosh Hashana we declare: “Repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree!” In Hebrew, these constitute the 3 Ts: Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka.

The Incomplete Repentance
The Incomplete Repentance

“Repentance” sounds like a grand and powerful word. In truth, the most important adjective that must be attached to the act of repentance is the word “sincere.”

A Song For The Dove
A Song For The Dove

Most songs written for Shabbat (zmirot) focus on either God’s resting from creating the world on the seventh day or on the relationship of the Jewish people to Shabbat. The Sabbath song Yom Shabbaton certainly incorporates these two elements, but its chorus presents a unique association attributed to the Sabbath day. This zemer’s chorus describes an event that occurred in the times of Noah–far after creation and many centuries before there was a Jewish nation: “On it [the Sabbath] the dove found rest, there shall rest the exhausted ones.”

I Am To My Beloved
I Am To My Beloved

The Torah verse that epitomizes the emotions of love is: “Anee l’dodi v’dodi lee” – I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me (Song of Songs 6:3). The ideal love relationship according to the Torah is one in which both parties are willing to give themselves to their chosen partner (in a healthy way, of course). The Hebrew acronym for the verse Anee l’dodi v’dodi lee is “Elul,” the name of the Hebrew month that precedes Rosh Hashana.

When speaking of Rosh Hashana, the sages discuss the great sense of awe that one must feel. They do not, however, mean awe as in fear. Rather, they mean awe as in a sense of being overwhelmed by the greatness of God. The purpose of Rosh Hashana is not simply to make people feel guilty for their mistakes or promise to do better (although that too is important), but, as with much of Jewish life, it is to help develop each individual’s relationship with God.

To have a relationship with God, a person must recognize all of God’s roles–including King and Judge, as is the focus of Rosh Hashana. During Elul, however, we focus on God as the Beloved of the Jewish people.

In many rabbinic allegories, the Jewish people are likened to a bride while God is portrayed as the waiting groom. The Jewish people (both as individuals and as a nation) can gain the most by recognizing that God loves His people and wishes to bring blessing upon their home.

I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me. When “I” (meaning the Jewish people) can truly give to “my beloved” (meaning God), then God will become ours in a beautiful and divine partnership.

This Treat was originally published on August 21, 2009.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Whose First Fruits?
Whose First Fruits?

When the Oral Law was first codified, most Jews lived in agrarian settings. Today, being less familiar with agrarian culture, some people find it difficult to relate to some of the discussions in the Mishna (Oral Law) regarding planting or livestock. Although we may no longer farm or herd flocks, the importance of responsible land ownership and use is a value that has remained throughout time.

For Jewish farmers in the land of Israel, one of the mitzvot that is part of the cycle of crop production is that of bikkurim, the first fruit offering. The first fruit to blossom on each plant of the seven species of the land of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) is marked (with a string) to be set aside for an offering at the Temple. One might assume that this mitzvah would apply to all farmers, but, in fact, the rabbis understood the pronouns in this commandment to be very specific: “You shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring in from your land” (Deuteronomy 26:2).

The Mishna (Bikkurim 1:2) states that “tenants, lessees, or occupiers of confiscated property–or a robber–may not bring them…because it says, ‘the first-fruits of your land.’” As significant as the first fruits are, the relationship of the farmer to the land upon which the plant grows is also important.

But ownership of the land is not the only criteria. “These may not bring them [bikkurim]: He who plants on his own soil, but sinks [a shoot] so that [it] nourishes from the territory belonging to an individual or to the public…[or similarly]…so that it grows on his own property”(Bikkurim 1:1). In other words, this mitzvah can only be performed by one who makes certain not to infringe of the property rights of others or the public.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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