Rosh Hashanah Customs

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

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Many people have the custom of sending Rosh Hashanah cards to loved ones. Children can be involved in choosing or drawing these cards, and older children may also write personal messages in some of the cards. Children may also create their own cards for family members and for their own friends. In some families, it is traditional to take family pictures before each Rosh Hashanah. Comparing this picture to the picture from the previous year can serve as an opportunity to talk about what has changed over the course of the year.

The first day of Rosh Hashanah (or the second day if the holiday begins on Shabbat) includes the tashlikh ceremony, in which we symbolically toss away our sins by throwing bread crumbs into a body of running water. To make this ritual more concrete, you might help your children to make a list beforehand of the things they want to throw away. As part of tashlikh, you can throw this piece of paper in the trash (not in the water, where the paper will just be a pollutant.) You can also turn the preparation for tashlikh into an art project. Children can paint, with watercolors, what they wish to get rid of in the coming year. When you float the drawings in water, these unwanted habits will magically disappear.

To emphasize the newness of the year, you might try doing something new right before or after the holiday. For instance, you might learn a new game, visit a place you've never been, or try a new hobby. Many people buy new clothes for the holiday and wear these clothes for the first time on Rosh Hashanah. Enjoying a new experience or acquiring new knowledge can spark a conversation about what else new might happen in the coming year.

Rosh Hashanah can be an opportunity for reflecting on the year that has passed and setting goals for the year to come. Taking time for such reflection can make the themes of the holiday come alive for the entire family.

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. She previously served as the Rabbi-in-Residence for the Jewish Funds for Justice.