It’s t-minus fourteen days until Erev Rosh Hashanah. Yes, just two weeks. If you don’t already have one, it’s time to get your RH game plan in order.
The central question to ask yourself before planning anything is, “How can I make this Rosh Hashanah special for myself and for those with whom I’ll be celebrating?” If that is your main focus, it will surely be a meaningful holiday.
Truly one of the sweetest parts of Rosh Hashanah (other than dipping apples in honey, of course) is simply celebrating with others. Whether you’re with family, friends, synagogue family, or all of the above, being together is what makes it all beautiful.
Beyond that, here are some things to consider, if you haven’t already, for your Rosh Hashanah game plan:
What will you actually do starting on Erev Rosh Hashanah (sundown on Sunday, September 9) and ending either Monday or Tuesday evening, depending on your observance (some people celebrate Rosh Hashanah for two full days). Will you go to services? Will you have a festive meal? Figure out where you will be and when, and what you need to do to prepare for that. Do you need to inform co-workers that you’ll be missing work, for instance? Or do you need to send in school excuse notes for your kids? Do you need to make arrangements for someone to watch your dog?
For your menu, it’s always good to start with some traditional foods and favorite recipes. Part of what makes a holiday special is to have some of the same recipes year after year. We always make a round challah with cinnamon and raisins, for example. Beyond that, it’s also fun to try something new. If you’re doing this, however, don’t let your search be too time-consuming. It’s easy to get lost in a Pinterest maze and find yourself dazed, confused, and ironically without a recipe hours later.
We’re currently in the Jewish month of Elul, which is traditionally dedicated to spiritual reflection and improvement as we prepare for the High Holidays. Rosh Hashanah is more powerful if you devote time to assessing your life ahead of time. A good place to start, if you haven’t already, is to study the 48 Jewish values, called middot. You could reflect on one or two a day and consider how you can better incorporate that value into your life. Click here for a list of the middot. You can also study the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, traditionally recited on Selichot. These attributes include being kind, compassionate, and truthful and can inspire us to emulate these beautiful qualities of God. Click here for a further explanation of the Thirteen Attributes, plus the list.
MAKING IT MEANIGFUL
Finally, think of a few special touches that can make your celebration magical. Perhaps it’s already something you do every year. Or maybe you want to try something new. For example, you could go around the table and take turns dipping apples in honey and making a new year wish for everyone. You could give everyone (or have them pull it out of a hat) a small piece of paper with a word on it (e.g., “health,” “love,” “peace”) and then have each person say what that word means to him/her in the new year. You could also include a new decoration. I bought Rosh Hashanah dining papers from Chai and Home this year. Each one says, “May you be inscribed for a sweet year filled with good health, prosperity, and peace,” and I know that they will make our table extra beautiful this year. These special touches are easily overlooked, but they can be the most wonderful (and definitely most memorable) part of your celebration.
Take the time now to prepare for Rosh Hashanah. Your efforts ahead of time will create a meaningful and joyous celebration this year, and memories for you and the people you care about for a lifetime.