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A Gentile’s Guide to Navigating Tishrei: The Jewish Party Month

Previously published Oct. 29, 2020

Previously published Oct. 29, 2020

1st of Tishrei (9/19/20): Happy New Year! Rosh HaShana, much like any other Jewish holiday, is your cue to stuff yourself. You’ll see challah agulah – round egg-bread to celebrate the cyclical nature of years; tapuchim bi dvash – apples in honey for a sweet new year; a pomegranate as a symbol of good deeds; head of fish or garlic – to be a head is to be a leader. Jews are big on simanim, or symbolic foods. We also perform tashlich, a symbolic casting off of sin – some write their sins on pieces of paper and put them in a river or pond, but in my experience, it involves throwing pieces of bread into a creek. The ducks always have a blast.

10th of Tishrei (9/28/20): Yom Kippur. Remember how we ate all that food on Rosh HaShana? Now it’s time to repent. We fast (no food, no water) because we are deep in prayer and reflection. I see Yom Kippur as a time to figure out how to correct my mistakes. What do you regret, and what will you do to fix it or make up for it, going forward?

15th of Tishrei (10/3/20): Sukkot. It’s a harvest festival of sorts. We build a “booth” of branches, a sukkah, open on one side, to evoke the houses the Israelites built during their exodus from Egypt, and we live in it for eight days. You can see the sky through the s’chach, or roof. During various parts of religious services, we shake a lulav, composed of a palm branch (lulav), a myrtle branch (hadass), and a willow branch (aravah), and a fruit from a member of the citrus family (etrog). It is said that the lulav represents the spine, etrog – the heart, hadass – eyes, aravah – lips. There is also the symbolism of four species and four letters in G-d’s name, spelled in Hebrew.

22nd of Tishrei (10/10/20): Shmini Atzeret. Ending of Sukkot. Yup, we celebrate that, too!

23rd of Tishrei (10/11/20): Simchat Torah. The word “happiness” is in the name, so you know it’s going to be fun! We celebrate the conclusion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings by unraveling the entirety of the Torah scroll (spoiler alert: it’s reeeeeaaaally long, as in wrap-around-the-sanctuary long) and dancing and singing. Rejoice!

Warning: enjoy the parties while they last. Next month is known as mar Cheshvan, or bitter Cheshvan, for a reason: No. Holidays. For. An. Entire. Month. Not that Jewish grandmas need an excuse to make too much food.

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