Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)

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Humanistic Jews see Rosh Hashanah as a time for renewal, reflection and new beginnings. Our focus is on the affirmation of human power and human dignity. Rosh Hashana is a time to consider the possibilities for change, improvement, and happiness that we can create for ourselves as human beings. Acknowledging human courage and independence, we can achieve human dignity.

As the first day of the Jewish year, Rosh Hashanah marks a turning point, a separation between what was and what will be. It offers a time for Humanistic Jews to pause in their daily lives and reflect on their behavior and renew their commitment to their highest values. The creative liturgies used by Humanistic Jewish communities on Rosh Hashana reflect these themes.

Many Humanistic communities sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, evoking memories of a time when the blasts of the ram’s horn called the Jewish community together in times of danger. Today, the shofar summons Jews around the world to a celebration of renewal, reflection, and commitment to values in action. The ceremony of tashlikh allows Humanistic Jews to reflect on their behavior, to cast off behaviors we are not proud of, and to vow to be better people in the year to come. Some Humanistic Jewish communities incorporate the writing of New Year’s resolutions into their tashlikh ceremonies.

Rosh Hashanah is a good time to teach children about role models of Humanistic Jewish values and to encourage them to begin articulating their own values. The tashlikh ceremony can be very powerful (and fun) with children, as can the blowing of the shofar and eating apples and honey.

The shofar is a call to action and commitmen to our values. Children love being able to blow their own shofar blowing (inexpensive plastic shofarot are available from most Judaica stores). Apples and honey are a fun and memorable way to mark the new year together as a family. The sweetness of the honey combined with the tart taste of the apple represents our hope for a year that will be tempered by sweetness and joy.