Borrowing from Rosh Hashanah: Reflection & Fresh Challah Bread

This year on Rosh Hashanah, this Hindu-Catholic family found themselves inspired to savor some of the tastes and rituals of the Jewish New Year.

Coming out of Ganesh Chaturthi in India and coming into a new school year, I had been thinking a lot about new beginnings, and had been looking for ways to help shape this September a new beginning for me.  While I had a vague recollection that Rosh Hashana was the Jewish New Year, I wasn’t familiar with the rituals. A quick google landed me on this Rosh Hashanah page on chabad.org , where I was inspired to adopt a few of the rituals this year.

 

Rosh Hashanah Rituals

I love food, and more so, I love when food takes on deeper symbolic meaning, as it often does in religious traditions. Dipping apples and Challah in honey as a way to wish for sweetness in the coming year? Yes, please.  Throwing crumbs out of our pockets and into the the roaring Atlantic ocean to symbolize a purge of evil bits from our souls? Absolutely, especially when the rough waters due to Tropical storm Jose makes it feel even more symbolic.  Blowing a shofar (ram’s horn) to wake us all up from our sleepwalking?  I think we could certainly use that right now but we were fresh out of ram’s horns so we closed our eyes and tried to get the same effect from howling tropical storm Jose. Fish head as part of our meal in hopes that the year be the head of the year (and not the tail)? Sounded cool but we didn’t get to it this time around… next time.

Tashlikh: Casting Out Sins into the Ocean

Tashlikh (meaning “to cast away”), is the ritual of throwing crumbs or stones out of one’s pockets and into a body of water, a symbol of cleansing ourselves of our sins and transgressions of the last year, and readying ourselves to forge a new, corrected course in the coming year.

Before braving the winds and rain of hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Jose to cast our sins into the waves at the Cape Cod National Seashore, the kids and I did a quick lesson on the tradition and a brainstorming of things each of us would do well to cast off.  Impatience was on the top of my list, which won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me.  I enjoyed sharing this reflection with the kids because it was a reminder to all of us that we all make missteps and have room for improvement all the years of our life.  We talked about the importance of stopping to reflect and notice these things, and to take steps to correct ourselves.  In the Catholic tradition (at least when I was growing up in New England), reconciliation isn’t formally introduced until 2nd grade, and I’ve yet to be introduced to a related Hindu ritual.  In the meantime I will borrow from Judaism.

 

Challah & Apples in Honey: Requests for Sweet Year

I’m not sure I’d be able to find good Challah bread off season near the tip of Cape Cod, but also looking for an indoor challenge (one more shout out to you, Jose!), we decided to bake our own Challah.  It was our second team effort at bread baking (the first being more than a year ago: honey wheat loaf, along with butter made from shaking in a glass jar, of course), and i think we enjoyed this more.

We didn’t make too much of a ceremony of dipping our challah and apples in honey, but as chabad.org suggests, we could have said:

“Ye-hi ratzon she-ti-cha-desh alei-nu shanah tovah u-m’tu-kah.

“May it be Your will to renew for us a good and sweet year.”

May it also be Your will that I remember to take better photos next time… like of an apple slice dipped in honey to insert here! hee hee

We used Joan Nathan’s ‘My Favorite Challah’ recipe which we followed almost exactly except:

  • The Yeast: only instant yeast was available at the market, but we added it in the same method (not the quick way that the package suggests)
  • The braiding: (the instructions weren’t getting us the braid we thought we wanted so we just went freestyle. Not perfect but fun.
  • I should have made it round to signify a crown (apparently), but alas I read that afterwards.

As the Challah dough rose and the kids napped, I caught up on some news and came across Bari Weiss’ opinion piece in the NY Times noting that we needn’t be Jewish to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and I couldn’t agree more!  I think we’d all do well to learn more about each other’s traditions, and in so doing more about each other.  So often our rituals look so different from the outside, but when we dig to the meanings and values from which they grew, we find commonalities.  Ok… off the soap box….

Shanah Tovah! (“Good Year!” in Hebrew)