Shana Tova Umetuka – 5775

Apple and honey

Apple and honey for a sweet new year

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight, and lasts for 2 days, until sundown on Friday night. The Jewish year follows the lunar calendar, and the number counts the number of years since Creation. This year we will mark the beginning of 5775.

This year, because Rosh Hashana falls on Thursday and Friday, we run straight into Shabbat, giving us a 3-day festival (which means I will be offline until Saturday night at the very least).

To quote from previous Rosh Hashana posts, Rosh Hashana is not marked by great parties and merry-making for the Jewish New Year is also known as the Day of Judgement, the day when all humans are held accountable before Heaven for their good deeds and bad, and their fate for the coming year is decided. A good part of the two days of the festival is spent in emotional and uplifting prayers in the synagogue where we acclaim G-d as the King of Israel and as King of the whole universe, and where we ask Him to write us in the Book of Life, which remains open until Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 10 days time, giving us time to repent and atone for our sins.

Blowing the Shofar

Blowing the Shofar

The holiday is marked with the blowing of the Shofar (the ram’s horn), which is meant to literally sound an alarm to wake us up from our bad ways and return us to the righteous path. We also eat sweet foods to symbolise our wish for a sweet New Year. A classic staple at the Rosh Hashana table is the apple, which is round, symbolising the cycle of the year, dipped in honey for a sweet new year.

Pomegrantates with their 613 seeds (from 613 things to do with pomegranates)

On the second night of Rosh Hashana it is traditional to eat a fruit from the new season. The most popular fruit is the pomegranate, because of the beauty of its shape, because it is one of the 7 species of produce native to the Land of Israel, and because it is traditionally believed that it has 613 seeds, the same as the number of mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew is commanded to keep.

Here’s a picture of the pomegranate trees in flower early in the season, in the park next to my house:

Pomegranate trees

Pomegranate trees

Flowers of the pomegranate tree

Flowers of the pomegranate tree. The flowers themselves become the pomegranates

It is also traditional in many households to eat all different kinds of foods whose names, in a kind of wordplay, remind us of good things that we wish for ourselves. So for example we eat carrots in various forms – tzimmes is a very popular dish amongst Ashkenazim – because the Hebrew name גזר (gezer) is the same root as גזרה (gezera) meaning decree. So we wish for “good decrees” for the coming year.

Other foods are the head of a fish so that we should be at “the head and not the tail”; and beetroot whose Hebrew name is סלק, (selek) similar to לסלק (lesalek) – to get rid of – so we wish to be rid of our enemies.

On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana (or the second if the first is Shabbat) we walk to a body of flowing water, a river, brook or the sea, or we try to get to a vantage point where we can see some flowing water, and say the prayer of Tashlich in which we symbolically cast our sins into the water.

You can learn more about Rosh Hashana and its traditions here.

The Picture a Day website posted a nice photo-essay in honour of Rosh Hashana, depicting Shofar-blowers throughout the decades. Here’s one evocative picture:

Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (circa 1935, all photographs are from the Library of Congress archives)

As Israel enters the new year here is a review of the Israeli population as it stands at the end of this year – at the staggering figure of almost 9 million!:

The population of Israel has reached 8.9 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed in its annual report ahead of the Jewish New Year. As of Sunday, the population of Israel was exactly 8,904,373 people, which is 173,811 more than the same time last year.

The number of new immigrants to Israel over the course of the Jewish year was 24,801, while 176,230 babies were born. Of these babies 90,646 are boys and 85,584 are girls.

While on the topic of babies, it was also revealed that the most popular name given to boys this year was Yosef, and for girls it was Tamar. Other popular names included Daniel, Uri, Itai and Omer for boys and Noa, Shira, Adelle and Talia for girls.

Also over the last year 140,591 people registered as married while 32,457 got divorced.

Even taking into account the non-Jewish population of Israel, the Jewish figures number over 6 million:

At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the Central Bureau of Statistics report, calling the population growth a victory over the Holocaust and other tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

“I can say that there are more than 6 million Jews in Israel, in comparison with the number of Jews that were taken from us over the last century,” Netanyahu said.

“Our strength is in uniting as a people and staving off our enemies,” he went on to say, wishing the people of Israel a happy holiday.

This past year has seen so many upheavals in our region, culminating in the Gaza war that took so many precious lives and injured and traumatized hundreds more. May  the coming year bring comfort to the bereaved families and refuah shlema to the wounded, and may Hashem grant us peace and tranquility.

May I wish all my family, friends, and readers worldwide שנה טובה ומתוקה – Shana Tova Umetuka.  A Happy and Sweet New Year.  May we all be blessed with a year of good health, joy, prosperity and peace.  May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה

Let the current year and its curses be over, let the new year and its blessings begin.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו

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26 Responses to Shana Tova Umetuka – 5775

  1. DavidinPT says:

    A pedantic point here – how did 140,591 people register as married and 32,457 get divorced. Surely both statistics should be even numbers!
    But I wouldn’t worry about it too much!
    Wishing our blogger and commenters a happy, healthy and peaceful 5775.

    • anneinpt says:

      You’re right! Perhaps one of the divorcees married one of those who were registered as married, and hence the odd number? Otherwise my mind boggles… Perhaps a menage a trois somewhere…?

      Shana tova to you and all the family.

  2. cba says:

    שנה טובה ומתוקה. ושקטה!!!

  3. cba says:

    My exclamation points are the ראש when they were meant to be the זנב… darned left-to-right confusion!

    • anneinpt says:

      Tee hee! Yes, WordPress does not treat Hebrew with the respect it deserves. You have to type your exclamation point first, and then your words.

      Shana tova to you and yours too cba. Hope you have a lovely yomtov.

  4. CHEUNGLL says:

    Shana Tova Umetuka!

  5. שנה טובה ומתוקה שנת אושר ובריואת שנת שלווה ושלום על כל ישראל

  6. Shana Tova to you and your family as well.

  7. Reality says:

    שנה טובה ומתוקה.שנה של בריאות אושר ועושר ,פרנסה טובה ,נחת מהמשפחה ושלום לכל עם ישראל.
    I wish everyone a happy healthy successful new year filled with riches and contentment.May all our prayers be answered and peace reign upon the world

  8. Brian Goldfarb says:

    And very uplifting the service is too, even for “secular” Jews like me. Even more so, when we have a Rabbi whose sermon focuses on the notion of forgiveness and expiation of sins (against God, not man – only one’s fellow humans can forgive sins against them; that’s not the Almighty’s job). We cannot control time, he said this morning, but we can use the time to control ourselves and resolve to behave better in the New Year – that’s why we Jews have the 10 Days of Penitence from the
    First Day of Rosh Hashona until (and including) Yom Kippur.

    And, with apologies for posting on Rosh Hashonah (I did say I was secular!), Shona Tova to all.

    • anneinpt says:

      You can’t fool me Brian. You can say you’re secular as much as you like, but you’re a believer, I can see it in your words. 😉

      I’m glad you found the services uplifting and your Rabbi’s sermon made similar points to what our own Rabbi said. Only one’s fellow man can forgive one’s sins against the other. G-d forgives the sins committed against Him. I very much like this aspect of Judaism – that one can’t just go to shul and be absolved. One has to work at repentance and swallow one’s pride to ask forgiveness of one’s friends.

      (BTW you don’t need to apologize for posting on yomtov or Shabbat. My blog is open 24/7 even if I’m not around. Your posting times are up to you).

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        “you’re a believer”. Don’t you believe it, Anne! What I am is a firm believer that the antisemites won’t care a jot whether I practise or not. So, I’m going to be ” hung for a sheep as for a lamb” – I will identify with my fellow Jews and to hell with the nasties.

        I do actually enjoy the service when I go along (which is somewhat more than just “3 days a year”) and the Rabbi is far too clever to comment on my rare appearances on Shabbat – and often surprises me with an aliyah!

  9. peteca1 says:

    DEAR ANNE – and all readers here – wishing you the best over the Rosh Hashana days!!

    Listen, I want to change the topic because of the date. Perhaps this will be a topic for you next week. Two years ago, almost to the day, PM Netanyahu gave a very public warning to the world. That was the famous “Red Line” speech at the UN about the Iranian nuclear program. The date was Sep 27, 2012.

    We are now two years beyond that date – with no overt action by Israel. I would never have guessed that 24 months would have sailed by, and “nothing” would have happened. Yet the Iranians seem to be happily progressing with their objectives, and blissfully handling all challenges to their nuclear program with twists, turns, and dodges. But no real action to placate Israel’s concerns.

    It’s really hard to know what to say.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Pete, thank you for your good wishes.

      Re Iran, it’s true that Israel hasn’t acted overtly – partly because of your very own dear Administration which isn’t giving Israel the backing, whether moral or military, that we need to take action.

      On the other hand the world does seem to be slowly waking up to the dangers of a nuclear Iran, although now they’ve been distracted by ISIS.

      So what will be? Who knows? We live in interesting times, that’s for sure!

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        And don’t forget stuxnet, with which Israel, of course, had absolutely nothing to do! Nor certain unfortunate murders of otherwise totally innocent Iranian nuclear physicists, with which Israel…

        • anneinpt says:

          LOL. Very good points Brian, those “incidents” had slipped my mind. I’m sure there’s a lot more covert action going on that we have no idea about – and that’s just as well. Who needs overt action with all the diplomatic repercussions that entails, when we can get the same results on the quiet (hopefully).

          • peteca1 says:

            I suppose that we should watch and see what PM Natanyahu says on June 29 in the UN. I should check the news now. YES – you are absolutely right that he has been under intense pressure to avoid creating a military attack in the ME, and he still is. But the question remains – will he cave in to this pressure, or act alone??

            • anneinpt says:

              He will cave in to the pressure. That is Bibi’s way unfortunately. He talks a good talk but does not walk the walk, at least not all the way to the end.

              So yeah, our secret services are out there committing some minor mayhem, but a major strike that will put paid to Iran’s nuke program? I can’t see it happening to be honest unless and until the Iranians load up their launchers and point the nukes at Israel.

  10. Aridog says:

    Plagiarizing the words of “Reality”, let me wish everyone here: “May all our prayers be answered and peace reign upon the world.”

    We sorely need the reign of peace in the world. It occurs to me today that in all of my 72 (shortly) years there has not been one without a war connecting to me directly or indirectly.

    It is time. A friend sent me a summary of items he tries to live by, and here is one of them:

    You create your own reality. No one else does….become happy with that which you are and with that which you have – while at the same time being eager for more…that is the optimal creative vantage point: To stand on the brink of what is coming, feeling eager, optimistic anticipation – with no feeling of impatience, doubt, or unworthiness hindering the receiving of it – that is the Science of Deliberate Creation at its best.

    I hope I can achieve that in the next year.

    • anneinpt says:

      Aridog! So good to see you again! I was beginning to worry about you.

      Your friend’s words are very wise and are indeed words to live by.

      I hope you find true tranquility in the coming year and of course good health.

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