The Fall Holidays

by Irene Glasser

There are three important Jewish holidays in the fall (the Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar so are not the same date in the solar calendar). Since Judaism is one of the sources of inspiration for Unitarianism, I thought it would be interesting to summarize something of the meaning of these celebrations. This year Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on sundown, September 28; Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar of holidays, begins at sundown on October 7, and Sukkot, begins at sundown on October 12. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the year 5772.

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that is celebrated with family both in the synagogue and at home over a meal. It is a time to look back at the past year and make resolutions for the following year. A favorite practice for me of the holiday is the ritual of Tashlikh where we walk to the water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana and throw bread crumbs into the water into the river, symbolically casting off our sins.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement, a day of fasting and repentance for the mistakes we have made in the last year. It is also the day that we remember our loved ones who have died. At the end of the 24 hours of fasting, we break the fast with a communal meal. Rosh Hashanah begins and Yom Kippur ends the Days of Awe which together are often referred to as the High Holy Days.

Sukkot commemorates the period of time when the Jews wandered in the desert. This harvest holiday is celebrated by building temporary huts and eating meals in them, in order to develop empathy with our Jewish history. Last year my husband and I celebrated Sukkot with the Newport County Havurah, where we constructed a hut and sat under it for prayers, a pot luck supper, and singing songs into the evening.

As a Unitarian who is also Jewish and celebrates the Jewish holidays, I try to find the contemporary meaning in each of these celebrations. Last year at Rosh Hashanna I pledged to myself to become more involved in researching Nicotine Anonymous, a potentially important approach to smoking cessation, which I am grateful to say that I have done and continue to work on.

I am hoping to bring in apples and honey for everyone during the fellowship time in September in order to wish you all a sweet New Year, one filled with peace and health for the year 5772!

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