This week, Lily, 9 and I are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We are not Jewish- -in fact, we were, or depending on our age, are, being raised Catholic. In this- -ahem- – unusual year of 2020 it’s helpful for the three of us to explore new avenues of thinking. If it can be fun, so much the better!
If you are snorting as you read this because you think we are perpetrating cultural appropriation, please lower your censoriously raised eyebrows and listen up. Our original surname, Abraham, is one that many people believe is Jewish. For decades I was treated, both kindly and with arrogant disdain, as presumed Jewish by people who didn’t know otherwise. After that experience, I think it’s fair to enjoy some of what the Jewish religion has to offer.
And the food, too!
Thanks, 9. 9, my inner nine-year-old, is the foodie in our trio. The menu for Rosh Hashanah centers on sweet delicacies to encourage a sweet and pleasant new year. Tonight, at sundown, we will treat ourselves to apples dipped in honey, pomegranates and Challah. Challah is a honey-sweetened braided bread. We baked our own yesterday.
The loaf echoes back to a horse we had, named Challah. My sister and I were busy being raised Catholic at the time and didn’t realize that this name, which we constructed from the names of the horse’s Arabian sire, Allah, and Welsh Pony dam, Wee Chocolate, was also something we could eat.
I can’t wait to try the pomegranate!
Pomegranates are definitely up your dietary alley, Lily. There’s no one better than a fourteen-year-old girl to savor the torture of slowly working out and nibbling the tiny jewels of fruit that are mostly seed. Bonus: when you’re done, your fingertips will be stained red. A true badge of effort!
Rosh Hashanah also carries this dietary admonishment: avoid nuts. In a presidential election year, this seems a wise precaution.
I first looked into Rosh Hashanah while writing Beyond Big-G City, the third book in my “G” series which, like so many pandemic-delayed things, is scheduled to come out next spring. David Bernstein, with exceeding ill grace, suffers through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with his foster parents and his nearly-girlfriend, Cleo Petra, with whom he is fighting.
Being in a crappy mood is not a helpful state in which to approach Rosh Hashanah, but the holiday itself may be the cure. The High Holidays cover a 10-day period, beginning with a celebration of God’s creation of the world and ending with seeking atonement for past sins. This culminates with Yom Kippur. Jewish friends, if I got this wrong, please correct me!
Are we fasting a day for Yom Kippur?
In some form, 9. It’s kind of tricky, given that there are three of us and two of us are kids. Don’t worry yourself into anemia in advance.
And don’t hide candy bars under the mattress so you can cheat!
I promise we’ll break the fast, whatever it is, with breakfast for dinner. Eggs, cinnamon rolls as big as our heads, the works!
But well before then, this very evening, we start the whole shebang with the sounding of the shofar. A shofar is a horn, made from a ram’s horn, played at the start of Rosh Hashanah. It’s a call to people to “wake up,” examine their not-so-good ways, and commit to correcting them. Even if you’re not Jewish you’ve likely heard a shofar. There are many YouTube clips of this if you want to check it out, including the top of the Exodus scene in the Cecil B. DeMille 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments.”
How are we going to sound the shofar?
Good question, 9. I have Dad’s old coronet (that I’ve never played) which could be, you know, our “special” way of doing this. But in the interest of maintaining peace with the neighbors (and the cats), we’ll play this clip from YouTube:
I’m excited about entering into this period of celebration, contemplation, redemption and renewal. Added benefit: Rosh Hashanah 2020 lasts from sundown today through nightfall (defined as dusk) on September 20th. Meaning? We will have something to focus on this weekend!
If life as a widow, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current siege of wildfire smoke have taught me anything, it’s the importance of moving forward in whatever ways are available, learning what I can along the way, and enjoying myself when the opportunity comes. Opportunities outside of home are scarce now, so I’m making my own.
With plenty of help from us!
Thank you, Lily. And thank you, 9. I can honestly say I wasn’t doing nearly so well without you two.
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Very interesting! I learned something more than I knew about the celebration and am inspired by you to learn something new. The bread looks pretty tasty to me.
The Challah is pretty darn good, Betty, and there’s a lot of it! A friend suggested Challah French Toast. I’m in! Glad that the blog fostered learning and inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I seem to be happiest when I actively engage with curiosity. . .
Love the YouTube shofar idea. I will play it at sundown. Thanks!
Happy to help, Amy!
I love this piece
So glad, Apryl! I remember your mom as an advocate for learning about and appreciating other cultures, maybe the first person in my life who was clear and up-front about this. It’s entirely possible she inspired my curiosity about the Jewish High Holidays and many other lines of inquiry!