Culture / Portraits

Happy 5774!

Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday evening, the 4th of September and the 1st day of Tishrei.  It is the Jewish new year, literally head of the year, and we will usher in the year 5774.  It is a time to review the previous year, consider our past transgressions and plan for a better year to follow.  While it is a festive holiday, it also happens to be one of the most holy.  To consider an entire year’s worth of transgressions requires a significant amount of meditation, after all.

Rosh Hashanah is also one of the few holidays that Jews around the world celebrate regardless of their affiliation or observance.  Many Jews who are not religious at all and identify in name only find themselves in a synagogue or with friends and family eating traditional foods of the season; a round challah to represent the cyclical nature of life; apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year; couscous with seven vegetables 
because the couscous grains represent wishes of abundance and the seven vegetables going back to the seven days of creation – just to name a few items on the menu.

We find our way to the holiday for many reasons; not all of them having to do with a notion of God or spirituality.

What I love about Rosh Hashanah, being the atheist Jew that I am, is the connection I feel to my community.  When I am at services with my family, regardless of how long we’re able to keep the boys interested, I see many of our friends at our shul who, like us, have spent the summer at camp or traveling.  It’s quite the reunion, and we all clean up pretty well for the occasion.

When I’m actually allowed a minute to sit with my own thoughts, sometimes I do ruminate on the prayers or consider the lessons of the Torah, but more than that, I always leave in awe. I am proud and humbled by the long and rich history of survival and celebration that brings us together, all over the world, every year.

Whether observant or not, we all benefit from the opportunity to renew commitments to family and community throughout the service.  Admittedly, my head isn’t always in the game, and during those moments of reflection and silent meditation, I plan.  Having outed myself as a list-maker, I can say now that I create my own new year, back-to-school, and prepare-for-a-new-season list.  My list is specifically about coping with the loss of summer.  I dread the cold, dark days of winter and the frenzied days of work, homework, after-school activities and parenthood.  I become tense just thinking about the frenzied pace of the school year, and I must remind myself to breathe.  I’ve already got a jump on my High Holiday Ruminations.

During the year of 5774, I will:

  • Take a look at my vacation photos often and remember that warm weather and vacations are not that far away.
  • Layer and lube.  So many of my complaints about winter stem from being cold and dry; bone-chilled and chafed.  This fall, I must invest in more scarves, cardigans and moisturizer to keep the chill out and the dewy in.
  • Take time out for me.  It is so easy to run like hamsters around a wheel during the school year, and I must remember to be less rodent and more purposeful person.  Get off the hamster wheel and take a drink at the upside down bottle nozzle on occasion.
  • Budget.  I need to save my pennies now so that we can send the kids to camp, take vacations and make the most out of our summer to come.

You certainly don’t have to be celebrating a new year to take stock and plan.  I wonder how many of you may be formulating your own lists at the start of the academic year. What do you do to prepare for a new season?  And for those of you who are, in fact, celebrating the Jewish New Year, I wish you a very sweet new year!

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. I have lots of ideas for the new year. I have SO MANY IDEAS that I need to buy a whiteboard!

  2. L’Shana Tova!

  3. I love new years, new seasons, all those “starting over” moments. This is the time of year when I usually look back at what I imagined and created as a possibility for the American calendar year, and try to figure out what I can still achieve. A little bit later in the fall, and as I get close to my late-November birthday, I start planning for my personal next year. 🙂

    • Birthdays are an excellent time to start planning a personal next year. Makes perfect sense. Maybe you’ll share your birthday with us, and I can post another Famous Queers Born Today for you!

  4. Shana Tovah! I definitely appreciate the reminder of time going by in a controlled way-where I was last year, where I hope to be next year. Things like holidays remind me to be aware of time’s passing, rather than being subjected to it 🙂 And I, too, am terrible at the quiet prayer bits of the service. My brain just won’t settle down.

  5. Shana tovah! I’m going to add cous cous & 7 veggies to the menu tomorrow (when we host the visiting rabbi for dinner, no less). Does it have to be 7 specific veggies?

    • I don’t think there are veggie-specific rules. And, I think there is flexibility in the veg part – you know – cause of the seeds that technically mean all of your vegetables are fruits. Maybe we can start a new queer tradition on Rosh Hashanah – Cous Cous & 7 Fruity Vegetables!

  6. From another atheist Jew, Shana Tovah!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.