High Holidays

Shana Tova with pomegranates

High Holiday Ticket Offerings

New Year’s Resolution 5780: Stop and Taste the Honey!

The English word “holiday” does not convey the full idea behind Jewish celebrations and commemorations. And the British term “holiday” as vacation does not help give it any gravitas. The two biblical terms are moed, a declared time, or chag, a cyclical time. They are both related to the idea of declaring a moment in time special or unique, and perhaps revisiting that moment on a rotating basis to appreciate the impact of what is being remembered.  Indeed, the Jewish idea of holiness, from which holiday/holy day may derive, is linked to the notion of making something unique, special, and thereby sacred.

The cyclical holidays, such as Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot, have two themes each- one celebrates parts of the exodus story, and the other the season’s harvest.  Both should make a person pause, remember, and celebrate with thankfulness and appreciation. Shabbat has two themes- the rest ethic after a creation process and the “rest as justice” idea as a part of leaving Egyptian slavery.

So, what could we make of the themes of the declared times of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? Their somber notes about repentance, change for the better, and introspection are important. But, coming as they do at the “head” of the lunar calendar year, they act as a keynote of sorts to the rest of the holiday cycle. As the seasons change, as the leaves turn colors and fall, as students go back to school and workers begin a new budget year, more than we declare these days to be special, these days declare and call out to us to take note. They plead with us to stop, take time, recognize changes both obvious and subtle, and take a deep breath and carry on. And as life becomes inevitably more complex and challenging, we need to stop and taste the honey; remember our blessings, the sweetness in our lives from family, friends, and accomplishments.

Here are some ideas for maximizing your holiday time, and “stopping to smell the roses/taste the honey” curtesy of Nisha Moodley. Try them and they may become New Year’s resolutions!

  1. Hold the door for someone. Yes, the person holding the door can take pleasure in this, too. Be patient so they can take their time.
  2. Watch bugs in the grass; It helps if you lie down.
  3. Put lotion on slowly; Feel your hand against your skin; feel your skin against your hand. This is your very own body.
  4. Thank the cashier; Imagine interacting with hundreds of people each day and having next-to-none of them give you the time of day. Be the one who does.
  5. Check out the moon; she governs the Jewish calendar and the cycle of life.
  6. Feel the fabric on your skin. While you walk, notice how your clothing feels against your body, and notice how every brush ‘wakes up’ your skin.
  7. Skip- Even if people watch. Who cares?!
  8. Buy a magazine that you normally wouldn’t. What’s a subject matter that you’ve never explored? Cross-stitch? Motorcycle racing? Interior design? Check out something you know nothing about.
  9. Buy flowers for someone else. Receiving flowers is heartwarming. Giving flowers is a thrill.
  10. Feel the air on your cheeks. It’s quite amazing that your cheeks are absorbing water and oxygen from the air. Feels good, right?
  11. Write a little love note to your Grandma. In as little as 3 sentences, thank her for all of the love, patience, and perseverance it took to create your family.
  12. Do a clutter tashlikh- Throw something out (or give it away). Right now, just go grab something that is taking up unnecessary space and get rid of it.
  13. Sign up for a class. What have you been wanting to learn? Take a minute now to sign up for a class.

Here is a baker’s dozen “conversation starters’ you can use to break the ice at family gatherings while avoiding politics or those awkward moments of silence or TMI.

  1. What is the funniest thing you remember about a past fall holiday season?
  2. What unusual traditions did you have around Rosh Hashana?
  3. Name one ancestor that you think about on Yom Kippur and tell us why.
  4. What is one wish you have for the next generation as they begin to establish their own holiday traditions?
  5. If your great-great-grandchildren could listen to this years from now, is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
  6. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  7. How do you want to be remembered?
  8. If you could add two commandments to the existing ten, what would they be?
  9. If you could break one of the commandments, which would it be and why?
  10. Share: Favorite Mother Moment; Favorite Father Moment; Favorite Sibling Moment.
  11. If your house was on fire and you could grab only 3 things before leaving, what would they be?
  12. Name one thing that not many people know about you.
  13. List 1 thing you wish you could change about yourself.

And remember that the most important app to download this season is Appreciation!

Holiday Books and Booklets for Families

Interfatih Family logo

Does your interfaith family have questions about celebrating the High Holidays? Interfaithfamily.com has two useful booklets for interfaith families celebrating the High Holidays. Follow the links below.

High Holy Days: the Basics
Celebrating the High Holy Days with Kids

Federation’s Jewish Food Experience®JFE logo has great ideas for your festive Rosh Hashanah table!


Sunflower Bakery logoOrder Rosh Hashanah treats from Sunflower Bakery, a non-profit organization that prepares young adults with learning differences for employment. Several pickup locations are available.