Are you prepared? The first day of Rosh haShana is on this coming Sunday at sundown.
Many are busy preparing menus because Jewish holidays revolve around food immensely and there are so many reasons for this: families gather at the time of holidays in all traditions and when we gather, we partake in rituals of sharing sustenance. Food is an expression of love in pretty much all cultures, what nourishes our bodies should also nourish our spirits and certainly our souls. The work that it takes to prepare a feast is also a reflection on the many gifts that we receive during the year.
There is a tradition to eat sweet things at Rosh haShana. This is why we dip a piece of apple in honey, a fruit of the season in the sweetest food that bees have provided us with and that exemplifies the love and abundance of the Earth.
We do not wish each other a “happy new year” like we do at the turn of the secular year in the middle of winter. We do not wish each other happiness but a “good and sweet year”: we wish the year can be filled with good actions and we know that it will not avoid difficult times but we wish they do not blow us too hard, and that there still be sweetness in everything that is coming our way.
In the Sephardic tradition I follow, the meals at Rosh haShana begin with a “seder“, an order of many symbolic foods that will be the opportunity to say a blessing for each one in relation to the hopes we have for the coming year. Some play on words in Hebrew (using a pun on the meaning of the Hebrew word that is the name of the food). The jokes are not very obvious most of the time but the important is to say the blessing: I have always liked this tradition a lot and it reminds me of all the affirmations that we want to repeat as often as we can so that to convince ourselves to stay positive in all circumstances!
The list of foods that can be used for these blessings, in no particular order here, and not limited to these: carrots, leek, beets, dates, gourd, apple, sesame seeds, spinach, beans, garlic, fig, pomegranate, and fish. I always make sure I buy a fish that will still have its head because the blessing on the latter expresses the wish to be heading our people amongst nations: there is a big responsibility in such a wish, to be the leading light for others.
I cannot avoid thinking of all this at the same time we are heading into a season of political debates in the United States that are also a reflection on how our country should be heading policies as a leading nation. I pray for wisdom and courage, and most of all for the beginning of the return of peace.
This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).
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