Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, happens from sundown on Sept. 8 and ends on Sept. 10, 2010. Rosh Hashanah marks a time of repentance, reflection, and looking forward to a brand new time and a new year. Many rituals mark the holiday, including attending services at synagogue; blowing of the shofar, or ceremonial horn; and casting pieces of bread into a river to cast away our sins.
Apples and honey are traditional foods as we celebrate the sweetness of the coming year as our souls are cleansed and we start anew. Having sweet treats is also an indulgence after the hard year we just endured.
My family celebrates both Christian and Jewish holidays because of our family’s shared heritage. My wife grew up Christian in a very Catholic area of St. Louis. I have attended synagogue ever since I can remember. I met my wife while working for a university library, and we quickly found out that our religious differences didn’t matter. We both were liberal enough to engage each other with tolerance and realizing that love was more important than any religious difference.
My most important Rosh Hashanah celebration was at the end of the first summer my future wife and I started dating. It was at this point that we both realized we were in love with each other and were inseparable as a couple. We both were nervous about attending synagogue during Rosh Hashanah but my family was very gracious and understanding which helped her immensely.
My favorite part of that Rosh Hashanah was going to the Missouri River to throw pieces of bread into the Big Muddy. My family made the event an entire day-long picnic of going to our favorite cliff side park overlooking the river west of St. Louis. We ate some non-traditional foods, but also some locally grown apples along with a delicious dip made of honey. Instead of eating the bread like we normally would, we happily tore off chunks of the loaves and threw them into the river. After sunset, my future bride and I took a romantic walk away from everyone else and spoke of our love for each other.
My wife and I have continued that tradition in our own family. Every year we find our favorite spot along the White River near Branson, Mo., and the four of us have a large picnic. For the main meal, we eat whatever we feel like, have apples and honey for dessert, and then toss some bread into the river. If we’re lucky, we see some fish eating the bread. As we cast the bread into the water we say prayers in Hebrew and in English to cast off the sins of the past year. At sunset we all hug each other and promise to be better human beings to each other the next year.
We enjoy Rosh Hashanah even more than the secular New Year on Jan. 1 because we can actually enjoy the outdoors. Winters in southern Missouri aren’t harsh, but generally midnight on Jan. 1 isn’t the warmest or friendliest time for being outdoors.