Out of all of the (many, many) Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashanah has got to be up there with my top five.
Though, to be frank, I would be lying if I said that the first thing to pop into my head when thinking about Rosh Hashanah wasn't food. It's true that, for me, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah has become synonymous with round challah (sweet bread), honey and cake. This is not just me having a sweet tooth, however. The tradition of Jewish people eating sweet foods on Rosh Hashanah is largely symbolic, and very closely tied in with what the holiday means to us.
We eat honey cake, honey and apples and other deliciousness to represent the hope of a sweet new year. Yes, it’s that simple! We're a literal kind of folk.
While we are encouraged to reflect back on the year that was, we're also eager to look towards the future in a positive light. So every Rosh Hashanah, while munching on honeyed apples, I usually ask myself questions like: Was I kind to others this past year? What goals did I achieve? What can I do to make the future sweeter? How have I been a good Jew? When is my next dentist appointment?
Beyond this happy reflection, it is also a time to come together with family and friends — both Jewish and non-Jewish. While of course the holiday has its roots in our ancient religion, I also see it as an important opportunity to feel connected to those around us, through our culture, tradition and common heritage.
I particularly look forward to listening to the dulcet sounds of the Shofar, a very large ram's horn that creates a deep, trumpeting sound when blown into. It sounds a bit like we're about to ride into battle, but it's one of those sounds that has a way of hitting you in the soul, and jolts you right into the present. It is also quite comforting to know that my ancestors would have heard the very same sound, and this feeling of connection to both the past and present is powerful.
Overall, Rosh Hashanah is a beautiful holiday, with way better food than non-Jewish New Year. And to that I say, Shanah Tovah Umetukah — have a good and sweet year!