On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Our next holiday to discuss is the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and our book is On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Cathy Goldberg Fishman. Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In our book, a little girl tells us about her holidays and why they are so special. First, she knows it is Rosh Hashanah because people are wishing her Happy New Year and saying, “L’ Shana Tova,” which is how you say Happy New Year in Hebrew. The Jewish New Year begins on this day, the day when God created the world. “It’s the world’s birthday!” she cries, happily.
The girl’s mother tells us that the New Year is not so much about how many months have passed, but it is more about how we think and act, and this is why Rosh Hashanah is so meaningful for the Jewish people. . The girl explains, “It is a time when we go to synagogue and pray to God for a year of joy, good health, and peace.”
As you know, right now, many people in the world are not healthy and can’t see their loved ones because of the coronavirus. It’s hard to feel joy and at peace under such difficult circumstances, but we must pray to God always. Your mommy is going to be praying for good health and peace, not only in America and Israel, your Jewish homeland, but she will be praying for health and peace in all the hearts and bodies of every human being on earth. Joy, good health, and peace… now more than ever!
Now normally we would go to synagogue on the High Holidays, but this year, we have to stay home. Still, we are going to watch synagogue services on our computer. Thank you, Daddy, for helping us to see the services on our larger television!
Next, the girl talks about an extraordinary thing that happens during the High Holidays. It’s the blowing of a shofar. What is that, you ask? It is a ram’s horn and when it is blown, it makes the most unique sound. The Ba’al Tekiyah blows the shofar in a very specific manner, the same way every year. The girl says, “The sound of the shofar reminds me of God. It makes me think about everything I need to do to be a better person.” My dearest Elena, that is the purpose of the High Holidays, to do our best to become a better person. Better than you were this year when sometimes you did things you weren’t proud of.
One of Mommy’s favorite parts of Rosh Hashanah? It is eating apples with honey. We hope that like honey, the New Year is sweet. Mommy has been doing this her whole life, and can’t wait to share this tradition with you.
Next, the girl tells us that when Rosh Hashanah is over, we wait for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. She says that the waiting is for us to try to feel closer to God. On this day, we fast. That means that from sundown to sundown we don’t eat. That’s an entire day! The girl’s father says, “We do this to feed our minds and our souls, not our bodies.” By not eating, we empty our body and soul of the bad things we did. We also ask God and anyone we have hurt for forgiveness. It’s important on Yom Kippur to say you are sorry so that you can change. Finally, at sundown, we have a large meal with our families and loved ones. We call it breaking the fast. Every year we go to your cousin Cindy’s house. This year we can’t, but that is okay. We will appreciate it next year all the more.
And for the last two items, during the High Holidays, it can often be heard, “Next year in Jerusalem,” the capital city of Israel. That is because we pray that one day, all the Jews in the world, will be together in that sacred city. Finally, the girl talks about the Tzedakah Box. We collect money in a Tzedakah Box all year and give it to our rabbi on Yom Kippur. It is an important part of Judaism because it is how we give money to people in need. Right now people are very much in need of the joy, health, and peace we pray for on the High Holidays.
I say a prayer every day to God to thank Him for the joy that he brought your Daddy and me when you came into this world. Mommy remembers how she and Daddy were praying for you during the High Holidays for many years before you came. Now that you are here, no matter how hard life can get, your Mommy is grateful down to the tips of her soul’s toes for the infinite joy, peace, and health you bring me.
A final blast from the shofar, the longest one, surprises everyone! It signals the end of the holiday. Happy Birthday, World! Happy New Year, Elena!