Rosh Hashanah is full of symbols and customs and like most of Judaism, there isn’t any “correct” way to observe the holiday. It is a happy holiday, a celebration of the New Year and God’s desire for the world to continue to exist. I’m a Reform Jew, so my observance is fairly liberal, as compared to the Orthodox and Conservative movements.
There are a few customs that are celebrated universally: listening to the blast of the shofar, reciting “avinu malkeinu” and attending services, lighting candles and enjoying a festive meal featuring apples and honey. Thanks to the internet and the world wide web I did all of these yesterday, with the exception of visiting a synagogue. While laying in the hammock I watched a video of the sounding of the shofars (ram’s horn) across Jerusalem and listened to a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Barbra Streisand’s “Avinu Malkeinu.”
A good portion of the day was spent creating a special dinner of braised lamb shanks, an herb salad and challah bread pudding. Cooking is a sort of temple for me: I get incredible joy from feeding those I love and the chopping and mixing and tasting are times of contemplation. (I posted the recipes this morning; you can also click here to go directly to the page.)
Today we enjoyed the simplicity of being in nature, reading and relaxing. As I stood in the chilly morning fog enshrouding the vineyards I thought about the traditional blessing over wine:
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam borei p’ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
This blessing is an integral prayer in many life cycle events. It is said on Shabbat and at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. My son, Harley, recited the prayer during our wedding ceremony before we shared sips of the glass that Aaron would stomp on at the conclusion, with our guests shouting, “Mazel Tov!” and “L’Chaim!”
The rows and rows of vines before me have been picked of their fruit and will lie dormant for the winter. But in the spring the grape clusters will form and by summer the fruit will be plump and ripe, bursting with sweet juice and ready for harvesting in the fall. The circle of life.
I looked at the lush green leaves, not yet beginning to turn the sunset hues of fall, and thought about the past year … incredible peaks of joy and deep valleys of sorrow. It’s impossible to know what God has in store for me next year. I’m vowing to take more time to savor the sweetness of Life and putting my faith in God that blessings will be in abundance.