Monday and Tuesday (of last week - I'm way behind on blogging) were the first and second of days of Tishrei and, accordingly, are known as the "head of the year" for Jewish life and start our High Holy Days. This being my fourth lap around the HHD track - I feel like I finally have enough perspective to publicly reflect on the days and their meaning.
Here, in no particular order, are a handful of thoughts on the early going of the Days of Awe of 5776.
- Erev Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish Christmas Eve. Imagine all the happy, glowing faces and the excitement of seeing old friends and family and sharing an hour or two in the sanctuary having prayers, songs, stories, and reflection followed by apples and honey. Now replace all this with gifts, a decorated tree, and some egg nog. They feel the same. They both feel wonderful.
- Rosh Hashanah SHOULD be Honored All the Way. It is a two day event (sundowns to sundowns so it stretches three days total). Most Jews (on the middle/liberal side of the sliding bar graph of Jewdom) only honor the first day and - even then too many make it only through services (which wrap up in the early afternoon of the first full day). I take the entire 48 hours. I try to observe the traditions, customs, and rules (no electricity, no work, limited use of labor, room temperature foods, etc.). It feels really, really good.
- Tashlich Is Underrated. The simple ceremony (meaning "letting go") is just you, a quick prayer or two, some stale bread and a moving body of water that can/will carry away the things that you symbolically cast away. We might have 200 people at the Rosh Hashanah service and perhaps 20 at Tashlich. That ratio feels way off for me. A beautiful, simple way to reflect and honor the pain, sadness, anger, resentment, and woes that you carry.
- Rules Need to be Made. There are five sermons during the High Holidays (optimally - sometimes more, sometimes less) and there are announcements after each. They include upcoming service schedules, thanks for special gifts and donations to help with the HHDs, etc. New rule . . . the announcements can only take 10% of the time of the sermon (we had a 66%-er the other day . . . broke my heart).
- We're Here By Choice. No one puts a gun to our heads or forces us to go to the semi-lengthy services and they are the highest, most important days of the year anyway. We deserve no reward nor pat on the back for the attendance. Nor should we seek it.
Anywho . . . Happy New Year. May the coming year be sweet, meaningful, and blessed.