THE SOCIETY FOR HUMANISTIC JUDAISM:
What is Rosh
Humanistic Jews see Rosh Hashana as a time for renewal, reflection, and new beginnings. Our focus is on the affirmation of human power and human dignity. Rosh Hashana is a time to consider the possibilities for change, improvement, and happiness that we can create for ourselves as human beings. Acknowledging human courage and independence, we can achieve human dignity.
Humanistic Jewish communities have adapted many of the ceremonies that are part of the rabbinic celebration of Rosh Hashana. As the first day of the Jewish year, Rosh Hashana marks a turning point, a separation between what was and what will be. It offers a time for Humanistic Jews to pause in their daily lives and reflect on their behavior and renew their commitment to their highest values. The creative liturgies used by Humanistic Jewish communities on Rosh Hashana reflect these themes.
Many Humanistic communities sound the shofar on Rosh Hashana, evoking memories of a time when the blasts of the rams horn called the Jewish community together in times of danger. Today, the shofar summons Jews around the world to a celebration of renewal, reflection, and commitment to values in action. The ceremony of Tashlikh allows Humanistic Jews to reflect on their behavior, to cast off behaviors we are not proud of, and to vow to be better people in the year to come. Some Humanistic Jewish communities incorporate the writing of New Years resolutions into their Tashlikh ceremonies.
Tashlikh can be done in many different ways. If a flowing body of water is available, take advantage of the opportunity to involve the children in this ceremony out of doors. Use this as a lesson about identifying and letting go of undesired behaviors by throwing bits of bread into the water. It is possible to use bird seed as well. If no such body of water is available, throw bird seed outside and explain that just as throw the seeds or bread crumbs, so too do we cast off unwanted behaviors. Another alternative is to use large jugs of water and a large bowl or collander. Have the children (and adults) write down behaviors or qualities that they would like to change on slips of paper and pour water over the paper until all the ink disappears.
The shofar is a call to action and commitment to our values. Children love being able to blow their own shofar blowing (inexpensive plastic shofarot are available from most Judaica stores).
Apples and honey are a fun and memorable way to mark the new year together as a family. The sweetness of the honey combined with the tart taste of the apple represents our hope for a year that will be tempered by sweetness and joy.
The creative possibilities for this holiday are endless. Although the holiday has serious themes, it is a time for children to begin participating in the behaviors we value. Use this time to make group resolutions about the upcoming year, which can be re-examined the next year, or for children to write short paragraphs on their commitment to Humanistic Jewish values.
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