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The Meaning Behind Autumn’s Jewish Holidays

November 22, 2019

West Bloomfield, Michigan, United States

Rosh Hashanah (September 30th - October 1st)

Many families gather together each Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey on the dinner table, ready to bring in the Jewish New Year. The words רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) translate to Head of the Year because that’s precisely what it is. The holiday takes place over two days, at the beginning of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish New Year. Important aspects of Rosh Hashanah are going to synagogue and hearing the shofar sound.

Fun fact: Some people avoid eating nuts during Rosh Hashanah because the numerical Hebrew equivalent for “nuts” is the same as the equivalent for “sins”.

Yom Kippur (October 9th)

Yom Kippur is best known as the holiday of fasting. This is because Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. One reason people fast on Yom Kippur is that you are supposed to solely focus on repenting for your sins, rather than focusing on the world around us. Another prevalent reason that people fast is so that they can be more connected to less fortunate individuals. It is common that many families “break the fast” after Yom Kippur ends after sundown, complete with a dairy meal of egg salad, bagels, tuna, and more.

Fun fact: Jewish Major League Baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax did not pitch in game one of the World Series because it was on Yom Kippur. 

Sukkot (October 13th - October 20th)

Sukkot: the holiday featuring the well known Lulav and Etrog. But this holiday is much more complicated than just those two signature items. The first two days are called “Yom Tov”, which are the days where you’re supposed to relax, not work, and simply rejoice with family and friends over festive foods and fun. Following these two days, we join together in the Sukkah: a shack with no roof so that you can always see the sky. The Sukkah is typically filled with plants, fruits, and vegetables. The “goal” of Sukkot is to spend as much time as possible within the Sukkah. 

Fun fact: Sukkot has three names other than Sukkot: Chag Haasif (The Festival of Gathering), Chag (Festival), and Zeman Simchateinu (The Time of Our Rejoicing). 

Simchat Torah (October 22nd)

Known as the Rejoicing of the Torah, Simchat Torah is a holiday that celebrates the end of the cycle of reading the Torah, as well as marks the beginning of the new cycle. Typically, the last section of Deuteronomy and the first section of Genesis are read aloud in the synagogue. Following this, the ark is left open, and the congregation is invited to sing and dance together in honor of the Torah. 

Fun fact: Simchat Torah marks the beginning of the rainy season for Israel, so it is the first time we begin to mention rain in our prayers.

Sarah Goldman is a BBG from Michigan Region.

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