A prayer shawl, shofar (ram’s horn) and prayer book. (Shutterstock)
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown on Wednesday night and ends at sundown on Friday night. For Jewish families around the world, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in synagogue and with family, friends, and food. Throughout the diverse and wide-flung Jewish world, different cultures have adopted different Rosh Hashanah traditions, some influenced by their country’s culture, such as in Ethiopia, where the shofar tradition is restricted to the kessim, the village elders, or in Cuba, where 10 grapes are eaten at midnight. But what binds the Jewish people together during Rosh Hashanah is the fundamental importance of passing on traditions through food, togetherness, and prayer, as well as a longing to celebrate the next Rosh Hashanah in a rebuilt Jerusalem.
The French Jewish community is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world. But even with such a strong community in France, over 10 percent of the French Jewish community has immigrated to Israel, largely in the last decade. Longing for Jerusalem is a part of their identity, as is true around the globe.
French Jews of North African descent follow a Rosh Hashanah seder (ritual, symbolic feast) in which various foods are presented on a plate, each to symbolize what Jews desire for the next year. It is traditional to recite a prayer over each food.
Foods of the traditional Rosh Hashana “seder.” (Shutterstock)
The foods include the traditional apples and honey for a sweet new year, leeks (karti in Hebrew, similar to karet, remove) and spinach (salka, similar to istalek, to disappear) to represent the removal and disappearance of one’s enemies; dates, so that one grows as high as palm trees; squash (kra, to break) so that unfavorable verdicts are broken; sesame and pomegranate, so one’s merits grow as numerous as seeds; fish, to multiply like fish in the sea; and lamb’s head, so the people of Israel are the head of the nations.
A typical Rosh Hashanah dish in France is quiche à l’oignon, an onion quiche, emerging from a traditional French quiche – sans pork, of course. French holiday cooking has also been influenced by its North African immigrants who brought harissa, cumin, and honey, as well as spices from their original lands of Marrakesh, Oran, and Tunis, including anise, olive oil, rose water, and pine nuts.
Rosh Hashanah in Ethiopia is observed for one day, in comparison to the two-day chag (holiday) observed in the rest of the Jewish diaspora. According to Adam Abrams in a recent JNS article, outside of Ethiopia, there are four prayer services for Rosh Hashanah, beginning after sunrise. But in Ethiopia, there are three prayer services, including one before dawn, giving Rosh Hashanah its Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) name “Brenha Serkan,” which translates to “the rising of dawn.” Rosh Hashanah is also known as “Zikir,” which is similar to the Hebrew word “zachor,” remember. In Ethiopia, like elsewhere, it is traditional to wear white clothing and have large feasts, often with lamb – the most expensive meat available.
Kessim, religious leaders of the Ethiopian Jews. (RnDmS / Shutterstock.com)
Although Ethiopian Jewish traditions are often distinct from that of rabbinic traditions, many of the religious rituals and customs of the Ethiopian Jewish population are almost identical to the type of Judaism practiced in the period of the Second Temple, told researcher and professor Dr. Yossi Ziv to Breaking Israel News.
The elders (kessim) in Ethiopian villages blow the shofar and are the only ones capable of reading Jewish texts in the ancient Ge’ez dialect. They instruct the entire village on how to prepare for the holiday, share Biblical stories from ancient scripts, and “emphasize our long-held aspiration to celebrate Rosh Hashanah ‘next year in Jerusalem.”
Indian Jewish communities have existed since ancient times, although a majority of them have made aliyah, immigrated to Israel. The B’nei Israel descend from persecuted, lost tribes of Israel who settled in modern-day Mumbai; the Cochin Jews descend from the Portuguese inquisition; and the Baghdadis hail from Iraq.
Recently, a community in India known as the Bnei Menashe, has claimed descent from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. According to Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel, the history, traditions, and customs of the Bnei Menashe convinced him of “the validity of their claim that they are in fact descendants of a lost tribe of Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News. They have expressed, like other Jews in exile, a deep yearning to return to Israel after 2,700 years.
Bnei Menashe celebrate Hanukkah in India. (Shavei Israel)
Because of their relative isolation from the mainstream Jewish population, Indian Jewish communities have been largely influenced by Indian tradition, displayed through traditional Rosh Hashanah foods. According to culture heritage blog AntiquityNOW, “Jewish-Indian cooking in general is unique and differs according to the community.” Lamb and goat is often ordered from a farm, slaughtered, and split amongst families to make biryani, an Indian dish of spiced rice, saffron, and lamb.
The traditional chicken dish served is mahmoora, chicken cooked with tomatoes, spices, almonds, and raisins, served on a bed of pilau rice. Milk halwa is another traditional Rosh Hashanah dish of the B’nei Israel, similar to Israeli sahlab. Women traditionally wear colorful saris (Indian floral gowns) for Rosh Hashanah services, while men wear custom-made shirts, pants, and vest suits. B’nei Israel have carried these traditions from India to Israel when they have immigrated.
After Fidel Castro came to power, almost 95 percent of Cuba’s Jews fled, as it was too difficult to maintain religious traditions. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Jewish life is being slowly rebuilt in Havana, where two-thirds of Jewish Cubans live. Rabbis from South and Central America came to teach the Jews of Cuba about religious traditions, and thus their holidays reflect an interesting mix of Jewish traditions.
Temple Beth Shalom, built in 1952, is a synagogue located in the Vedado neighborhood of downtown Havana, Cuba. (Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com)
Cubans have a tradition of eating grapes for good luck on New Years, so the Jews of Cuba have adapted their Rosh Hashanah traditions accordingly. According to Jennifer Stempel in The Nosher, at the stroke of midnight the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Cuban Jews enjoy 12 grapes, one for each month. “According to folklore, this practice stems from Cuba’s Spanish roots. Spanish grape growers may have instituted this tradition when they were faced with an overabundance of harvest, and needed to offload some grapes. With everyone in the community enjoying grapes, the grape farmers were certainly enjoying a sweet start to the new year.”
In Israel, Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday where, like during Shabbat, businesses are closed. Religious Jews attend lengthy synagogue services and festivities also center on the home, where festive meals are prepared for family and friends. During the week prior to Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Jews flow to midnight selichot prayers held at the Western Wall and in synagogues, requesting forgiveness and expressing repentance for one’s sins.
Like elsewhere throughout the world, the shofar is blown and it is customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. Mystics say that on Rosh Hashanah, the three short wails of the shofar, the shevarim, represent the times of the Garden of Eden, before sin. Teruah, the staccato sound of nine short blasts, is the mournful sound of exile, and tekiah, the long, straight sound is the sound of the Messiah on his way, a return to Paradise and Messianic times.
A religious Jew blows a shofar at the Western Wall. September 7, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Traditional foods include honey cake and round challot, braided sweet bread, which symbolizes the yearly cycle and circle of life. It is also customary to perform tashlich, shaking out one’s pockets and throwing breadcrumbs into an open body of water to symbolically cast away one’s sins.
Breaking Israel News would like to wish our readers from around the world a Shanah Tova U’Metuka, a good and sweet new year, from wherever you may be celebrating!
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
The verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael – “Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – is understood to (in Wikipedia’s words) “encapsulate the monotheistic essence of Judaism.” It’s understood to be a declaration not only there is one and only one God, but also that God’s oneness is all-inclusive. God includes every particle of existence is within Him. God is not just ruling over the world. God encompasses the world. Time and space and all of us are within God. Nothing stands outside of God’s Oneness, and God encompasses all existence equally
Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.
On the left side of the screen on Tuesday, 15,000 Israelis gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to demand legal justice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of what they view as an anti-democratic usurpation of political power by Israel’s legal fraternity.
It hard to believe that two weeks ago, Israel was on the brink of war. With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing nearly 500 missiles from Gaza into Israel within a 48-hour period, even Tel Aviv was put on alert and certain train routes were canceled. My mind immediately raced to a Christian group I was going to host for Shabbat in Jerusalem Israel – Pastor Leroy Armstrong of Proclaiming the Word Ministries.
Turkey’s little remarked on but ongoing mistreatment of historic churches is increasingly reflective of that nation’s growing sense of Islamic supremacism.
Before the Turks invaded it, Anatolia (present day Turkey) was an ancient Christian region; a large chunk of St. Paul’s epistles were sent to or dealt with its churches, including the seven of the Apocalypse. With the Turks’ conquest, colonization, and subsequent Turkification of Anatolia—hence why it’s now simply called “Turkey”—tens of thousands of churches were systematically desecrated and turned into victory mosques.
Sorek was the grandson of a Rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and was universally described as a kind, gentle soul. His funeral was interrupted by Palestinians shooting off fireworks celebrating his murder.
Two terrorists, including one affiliated with Hamas were arrested for the murder. And at the time, Hamas said in a statement, “We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation which killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said in a statement. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold.”