Rosh Hashanah Customs

Suggestions for bringing the messages of the New Year home from synagogue.

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More than any other Jewish holidays, the High Holidays take place in the synagogue. While most Jews associate Passover, Hanukkah, and Shabbat primarily with home celebrations, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur conjure up memories of hours spent in services.

But these synagogue-based holidays can be enhanced through home rituals that add meaning to the messages of the day. Here are some ideas, old and new, for bringing the lessons and themes of Rosh Hashanah into your home.

Sweet Foods, Like Honey Cake and Challah, for a Sweet Year

round challah

As with most Jewish holidays, food is the focus of home celebrations of Rosh Hashanah. Families and friends gather for extended meals, which include traditional foods, such as apples and challah dipped in honey. Honey, a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year, also appears in other holiday foods, such as tayglach –a honey and nut pastry — and honey cake. The challah, normally braided, is round, as a reminder of the never-ending cycle of life.

Like other festival and Shabbat meals, the Rosh Hashanah meal begins with Kiddush, the sanctification of the day over the wine. Both at dinner and at lunch, the Rosh Hashanah Kiddush includes a reference to the shofar, the most prominent symbol of the holiday.

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and the author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On-Guide for Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition. She will be blogging here for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning all through Sukkot.

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