Ahhh...the Jewish New Year. A paradox of joyous celebration and serious soul-searching introspection.
Our discussion will touch on the month of Elul, the Hebrew month immediately preceding the New Year. Elul is a time that is traditionally devoted to the task of preparing for the holidays. There are tachlis (yiddish for practical) preparations, like arranging for tickets to services, and thinking about the holiday meals. There are an infinite number of recipes online, but you might begin your search for them here. (One of the most notable food traditions around the holiday is the use of a round challah, instead of the traditional braided one we use for Shabbat. I'm fond of the preschool book that attempts to explain the challah change!)
On a more serious note, Elul is a time for preparing - because it is the time that we are supposed to begin doing the hard work of repentance, and of preparing spiritually for the Holy Days. There are lots of books that are devoted to this enterprise:
- "Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days" by Olitzky et al - a lovely self-help-esque approach to the subject
- "Days of Awe" by S.Y. Agnon - Agnon is Israel's only Nobel Literature laureate. This is his classic collection of Jewish sources relating to the High Holy Days.
- "Entering the High Holy Days" by Reuven Hammer - the classic introduction to the holidays in general
Another great way to prepare for the holidays is with music.
Of course, any discussion about Rosh HaShanah would be incomplete without mentioning the shofar! Check out the following video for a brief introduction:
An important question to think about and comment on for this week: To what extent have you made personal New Year's Resolutions before? Have they been successful? Why/why not? In what way(s) does teshuvah/repentance differ from secular resolution-making? How might you personally use the High Holy Day season to become the better person you aspire to be?