HOW YOU CAN MAKE ROSH HASHANAH AT HOME A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE
I am what they call a three time a year Jew. That said, the few times that I do attend I thoroughly enjoy the experience. The High Holidays carry me through the year. This year I am unable to go to Synagogue. I am in the “vulnerable” bracket because of an underlying health condition and will be spending Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper at home. I suggested my wife should go, but as there is no space in the Synagogue for children and they have to stay home she has chosen to remain home with the rest of us. At this point I am, for lack of a better description, sad. While I have no choice, I won’t get my usual “fix.” Is there anything you can advise that could somehow make our overall “home experience” more meaningful. I think any insight would be of benefit to many readers who I suspect are in a similar situation. While writing may I take this opportunity to thank you for your weekly inspiration and wish you a Shana Tova and all things good in the coming year.
This Rosh Hashanah will certainly be most memorable even if for all the wrong reasons. Those going to Shul will encounter a new sort of experience, sitting distant from friends and with a mask. Many of course won’t make it to Shul out of concern for their wellbeing.
Be that as it may, we can all still make Rosh Hashanah memorable for all the right reasons as well. Many spoke of their Pesach Seder experiences in glowing terms, reflecting on the unique family bond. In some extraordinary way we were able to focus on one another in a more personal and meaningful manner. We can replicate this on Rosh Hashanah as well. For those who are in Shul, sitting in your own two meters, covered with a mask, provides a private space for you to be a little more intimate with G-d. Take advantage of that, connect with your soul and pray from the depths of your inner self. Those who are unable to make it to Shul can still experience Rosh Hashanah at home in the following way:
A fundamental principle of Judaism is that we have the power of turning every negative into a positive. That has been our staying power as a people through the ages. This Rosh Hashanah, I encourage you, each in your own way to endeavour to do the same.
(1) Blow Your Horn: Even if you cannot attend a communal services, you are still obligated to hear 30 blasts of the shofar. So speak to your Rabbi or Shul as I’m sure they will have arranged a range of different outdoor, socially distant Shofar blowing venues. If you are isolated and can’t make it out, I’m sure arrangements can be made to come to your door. N.B. This year this applies to Sunday (2nd day) only.
(2) Be Your Own Chazan: Select various prayers that speak to you or that you’ve enjoyed over the years. Spend time understanding them, close your eyes and contemplate on the significance of the words and their relevance in your life. Then recite them slow and deliberately. Sing the tunes you’re familiar with. As Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekend and everyone will be at home, create some spiritual space in which you pray together as a family, have a discussion, pick select paragraphs from the Machzor, singing some of the traditional songs etc. It could all be a most memorable experience. Above all else remember that G-d hears prayer wherever we are and if we must stay home, that’s exactly where He wants to hear us.
(3) Become a Gourmet Chef: There are a number of sweet delicacies one should enjoy on Rosh Hashana as an omen for a sweet year. Round raisin challah; sweet carrots; apple dipped in honey. And other symbolic foods like pomegranates (because of the multitude of seeds representing abundance), the head of a fish (representing being ahead in the coming year), are also significant. Make mealtime festive and meaningful.
(4) Connect with Others: Remember we are not in this alone. There are many others that will be confined somewhat this year. Picking up a phone before the New Year and wishing them a Shana Tova will mean the world to them and will uplift yourself in the process. Though socially distant we can be spiritually together. Showing some extra love to another will ensure that in the same way, G-d will show us a lot of love as well. And we can all really use it at this time.
(5) Water under the Bridge: Even if one cannot make it to Shul, there is one beautiful ritual that can be fulfilled. There is an ancient custom of walking to a flowing body of water and reciting the special “Tashlich” prayer. This in keeping with the verse, “and you shall throw (tashlich in Hebrew) their sins into the depths of the sea.” It is a short prayer found in every machzor and is as certainly covid compliant. N.B. This year the custom is practiced on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana (Sunday).
(6) Stay Inspired: There is so much material available online that can keep you inspired for the duration of the 48 hours of the festival. Be sure to print it out before Yom Tov and either read it by yourself or share it with others around your table.
(7) Stay Happy: The current circumstances might get you down. No shul, no socialising, no additional family. The ancient Sages impress upon us that happiness is the ultimate receptacle for blessings. It may be more challenging this Rosh Hashanah but think of all the reasons you have to be happy, focus on the obvious blessings in your life and remember, when you smile down below G-d will smile up above.
May you together with all readers merit a truly happy, healthy, sweet and prosperous New Year ahead filled with life, love and laughter.