This time of year is a time of excitement and renewal in the Jewish community because we celebrate several holidays over the next few weeks. Since you might see them on your calendar or your child comes home and tries to explain why a friend wasn’t at school, I wanted to share what some of the holidays are and the meanings behind them.
Rosh Hashanah is the first of the holidays and is commonly known as the Jewish New Year, one of the holiest days of the year. It is celebrated with apples and honey, round challah (a special type of bread) and big family style meals with friends and relatives. My kids make crafts to decorate the house and learn how to say happy New Year in Hebrew, which they love to teach their friends. Rosh Hashanah compares to the American New Year because this is a time of renewal and a time for making resolutions. I feel lucky to celebrate two New Year’s because I can focus on those plans and commitments not just once, but twice a year. This means I get to hold myself doubly accountable, which sometimes works in my favor and other times serves as a reminder to get back on track.
Yom Kippur is the next holiday on the calendar, and most consider this to be the holiest day of the Jewish year. Many Jews will not work or eat on this day. They often spend their day in quiet reflection at synagogue asking for forgiveness for the sins of the past year to demonstrate their repentance and make amends. In our family we apologize for anything we may have done over the past year that has hurt or offended the other person and ask for forgiveness from each other.
The next holiday is Sukkot, which begins the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is one of the most joyous holidays and is by far my favorite. Our kids help build a sukkah or large tent-like structure in the back yard that we eat in throughout the week long celebration. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which Jews wandered the desert, living in temporary shelters. We invite over friends and family to join us for meals so we can all celebrate the holiday together.
All of these holidays are filled with meaning, prayer, and time with family and friends. There are many other Jewish holidays that happen throughout the year. Hopefully this gives you a little insight and will help you and your family to understand some of the meaning behind these important Jewish dates.