Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish new year – marking the creation of the universe.
Rosh Hashanah is part of the High Holidays in the Jewish tradition, which culminate in Yom Kippur, and literally means "Head of the New Year". Rosh Hashanah services, with the exception of those occurring on Shabbat, are marked by the blowing of a shofar (rams horn), encouraging the examination of past deeds, repentance, and remembrance of the Creator. This year, Rosh Hashanah marks the year 5784 that begins at sundown on Friday, September 15th and concludes at nightfall on Monday, September 17th of the Gregorian calendar, or sundown on 29 Elul to nightfall on 2 Tishrei on the Jewish calendar. Typically, this important holiday is celebrated by the morning blowing of a shofar, prayers and readings, performing a tashlich ceremony (casting away of sins), lighting candles at sunset, eating traditional and sweet foods, and abstaining from creative work.
Coming together for Rosh Hashanah presents multiple opportunities to ring in the new year with green thinking. Here are some ways to green the New Year while celebrating with family and friends!
The first day of Rosh Hashanah traditionally includes Tashlich, a ceremony in which bread crumbs are cast into a flowing body of water after the reading of special verses to represent the casting away of sins. This meaningful tradition can be modified to forge a deeper connection with the Earth’s waters, by performing what is commonly known as reverse tashlich.
Reverse tashlich involves removing items of harm from the water, drawing the sin from it. Reverse tashlich ceremonies are growing in popularity and practiced across the country. Organizations such as Tikkun HaYam- Repair the Sea, an organization whose mission is to “share the spiritual wonders of water and the Sea from a Jewish perspective, promote interfaith harmony and cooperation, and raise awareness and encourage action to address the many threats facing the aquatic environment,” provide resources on how to perform reverse tashlich and its importance. Frequently, reverse tashlich takes the form of a stream clean up, removing trash from a body of water. This Rosh Hashanah, consider performing a reverse tashlich alongside or in the place of a traditional Tashlich ceremony!
If you're interested in attending a reverse tashlich ceremony, these Partner Pledge Congregations will be holding them throughout the watershed:
Or, check out this map of reverse tashlich ceremonies worldwide!
Rosh Hashanah Dinner
Coming together for Rosh Hashanah dinner is a tradition spanning generations, and often a time for families to gather around the table and enjoy delicious and new foods. While Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions vary what foods are traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah, dinners generally feature apples and honey, a round challah, pomegranates, and sweet foods to symbolize a sweet new year. Each of these foods are generally available from the grocery store, however, there are ways to make a Rosh Hashanah dinner that ring in the new year with green-thinking.
Eat Local and Get Outdoors!
Shopping locally is one way to move towards hosting a sustainable Rosh Hashanah dinner. Rosh Hashanah often coincides with the apple harvest in the Chesapeake Bay region, providing a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors, serve local foods, and support local farmers. Picking or gleaning your own apples provides an avenue to connect with the land that our food comes from and the food itself. Likewise, if your congregation grounds are able to accommodate an apple tree, consider planting one! There are multiple types of apples that thrive in Maryland’s climate, and September to October is generally the best time to plant them, frequently coinciding with the Jewish High Holy days. If you choose to plant an apple tree, be sure to research what types of apple tree thrive in your climate and soil conditions, follow proper tree-care procedures, and ensure that you have a maintenance schedule/team prepared.
If you are not located near an orchard or unable to plant an apple tree, farmers markets are another great place to search for local apples, and honey, too!
New Year, New Apiary
If your congregation (or home!) has the space and you have the impetus to do so, starting an apiary is one wonderful way to give back to the Earth, while soaking in her benefits. An apiary is a structure in which bees are kept, and can vary in size and shape depending upon location. Bees provide an essential function as pollinators, picking up pollen from plants they land on and spreading it to others, allowing for plants (including food crops) to reproduce. Keeping honey bees helps support the local environment, while providing a stream of delicious, ethically produced honey!
Apiaries can exist in rural, suburban, and urban environments on as small as a quarter acre of land, with the caveat that keepings bees in close proximity to other dwellings or structures may be harmful to the bees and disturb nearby people, particularly if the hive “swarms”. Installing an apiary has a positive impact on the environment, but be sure to research and speak with a beekeeper before starting your own. They’re a commitment!
If you aren't quite ready for taking that big of a leap - then find a local beekeeper to purchase your honey from!
Candles are frequently lit on Jewish holidays, from Passover Seder to the Sabbath and Rosh Hashanah dinner. Often, candles are burned down to nubs before being disposed of, and a new candle bought. However, candles can be recycled, and swapped with more sustainable alternatives. Rather than disposing of candles, consider holding onto the leftover "nubs", if your congregation does not already. These nubs can be melted down and repurposed to create a new candle! While making a new candle stick may be a challenge if the materials are not present, the leftover nubs can be used to make new jar candles, preserving the leftover wax and ensuring that none of the wax, created by hard-working bees, is wasted. This was a hot topic on one of IPC's listservs this week - want to join the conversation? Let your regional outreach coordinator know!
Likewise, swapping traditional candles for an electric candle can help reduce the amount of wax-waste produced, or totally eliminate it. While an electric candle lacks the charm of a traditional one, there are many high-quality candles on the market with flickering, hyper-realistic flames. Utilizing LEDs, these candles can last years, eliminating the need for a congregation to continuously buy candles.
However you're celebrating, have a happy, green New Year!
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