Happy New Year...er, what?
September 14, 2012 3:56 PM   Subscribe

(Jew Filter) High Holy Days ideas for the unaffiliated?

Okay, we can do the apples & honey on Rosh Hashana, and we've been invited to a break fast on Yom Kippur... But what else can we do to celebrate, when we're unaffiliated?

In the past I've been able to take my child to some free, short, less-formal family services that local temples offer. But he's really aging out of that -- for example, the best of these services is geared towards those younger than 2nd grade and my child is 9 years old. I also found a few cool-looking hipster-style services, but those are geared towards adults and the over-12 set.

So I'd love to think of things we can do on our own to celebrate. I am Jewish (Mr. BlahLaLa isn't) and we call ourselves "a Jewish family," but we don't go to temple and I'm sure there are a million traditions that I don't know about. (This is in L.A. if anyone has any local ideas.)

Halp...and l'shana tova.
posted by BlahLaLa to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Throw bread into a river (tashlikh), casting away your sins? (A lot of synagogues don't require you to be affiliated to do things like this.)

You could make a round (cycle of life) challah together, eat it with honey.
posted by jeather at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Baking challah is fun, and a 9 year old might especially like the part where you braid it in a round shape.

I was just saying (ok, tweeting) earlier today about tashlich, which is symbolically cool, but even without that part, just being near water is something to do.

On preview - great minds!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:12 PM on September 14, 2012

Response by poster: Those are exactly the kinds of things I'm looking for. Keep 'em coming! And, hey - we have a pool! That counts as a body of water, right?
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:13 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and you could also make resolutions, or do some other sort of reflective thinking (or writing?) about what you want to do/change in the new year.

(I would not recommend throwing bread in your pool;-)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:20 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Yom Kippur is about settling past transgressions so you can move into the new year with a clean slate.

My family has always set aside some time to actually do this. We go through the year month-by-month and talk about the things that didn't go as well as we'd hoped. It's all basic human nature stuff: losing your temper, lack of grace under fire, a situation mis-handled etc. All those things that weigh on the typical guilt-ridden Jew's mind. We talk about what we'd do to handle it better next time and even apologize if an apology is warranted.

9 seems like the perfect age to get into a bit of self-reflection and personal responsibility.

[As an aside, we also do the same thing at Christmas (we're multiculti too), only then we mostly focus on everything we've accomplished over the last year. Fun for the whole family!]
posted by paddingtonb at 4:22 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: HONEY CAKE is soooo good. Every year, I wait for the honey cake to come around in the bakeries, because I don't know how to make it myself.

For some reason kreplach is a thing to eat right before Yom Kippur, at the last meal before you would begin your fast if you were fasting. Which is interesting to try, even if it's only for a few hours. A midnight snack is never so appealing as when it's off limits.
posted by brina at 6:05 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: If you want to go to services or hear the shofar, check out university Hillel organizations in your area. If you don't mind something orthodox, the Lubavitchers (they're everywhere!) will be happy to have you.

Some Sfardim have a seder, similar to the one at passover, but with, of course, a whole different theme. Just like the one at passover, this one is loads of fun, with songs and prayers and symbolic dishes. Here is one you could use, I'm sure you could find others if you want.
posted by ubiquity at 7:07 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Shana Tova!

Another cool tradition is to eat a "new fruit" -- something you haven't had all year, or at least for a long while. You can say the Shehecheyanu blessing on it, which Wikipedia describes as a blessing recited "...to be thankful for new and unusual experiences."
posted by ariela at 8:00 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a variety of traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah, not just apples and honey! Each of them has a connection to a blessing, wish or intention for the new year, as detailed in the Talmud. Most of these connections are based on wordplay. Each has an accompanying "Yehi Ratzon" (May it be your will) prayer in which we emphasize the wordplay and ask for a related blessing in the coming year.

Consumption varies widely depending on your particular diasporic connections (mine are Ashkenazi, but some things listed below are Sephardic, Yemeni, Iraqi and beyond), and can include:

-pomegranate (it's said to have 613 seeds, the same as mitzvot)
-the head of a fish (for the head of the year)
-carrots (the word for carrot in Yiddish sounds like the word for more, and they look like coins)
-black eyed peas or fenugreek (the word in Aramaic comes from the same root as increase)
-squash or pumpkin (the word in Aramaic, when transliterated, is the same as to rip, that evil should be torn away from us.)

I think it could be quite fun to make up your own with your kids, and offer blessing for the new year, aka: eating peas, with the hope that the new year will be peasful, and the like.

Oh, and mikvah! In Jewish tradition, spiritual cleansing happens by immersing oneself (naked if possible) into a body of rainwater (lake, pond, ocean, etc) and dunking fully three times. This practice is done all the time in religious communities (before writing G!d's name, after mensturating is completed for the month, etc), and is traditional at the onset of the new year.

Also, have you seen Ritualwell? It's a project of the reconstructionists, compiling Jewish rituals from all perspectives, and encouraging people to create their own. It skews feminist, spiritual, and not-so-G!d-centric. Might be helpful now, and in the future.
posted by femmegrrr at 1:16 PM on September 15, 2012

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