Make ‘Em Say Rosh!: Reflections on the Jewish New Year 5773

Last night marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish calendar year. It’s a celebration of a new year and new beginnings, to be sure, but Rosh Hashanah is also a commemoration of the anniversary of the creation of humanity, and a call to repentance – symbolized by repeated blasts on the shofar, a ram’s horn.

Rosh is a celebration imbued with symbolism. “Rosh Hashanah” literally meaning “the head of the year,” in many communities the meal includes a fish with the head still on it. (Tangent: my partner cannot seem to resist naming fish when they are served with heads. RIP, Mitch.) Other symbolic foods include apples and honey (for a sweet year), round challah (representing the cyclical nature of life, and the beginning of a new cycle), pomegranates (that we may be as filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate is filled with seeds), beets, dates, and leeks. And, duh, wine. Always wine.

I had grand plans for our Rosh Hashanah menu this year. I polled friends for recipes, scoured the internets for ideas, and ordered our supplies far in advance. (The shortlist included snapper in red sauce, kibbi, challah with dates, apple and honey sorbet, pomegranates, and beet risotto.) This being our first year in a house all our own, I wanted everything to be perfect. But as my mother-in-law likes to say, “we plan, G-d laughs.” Proving her right yet again, long story short, we ended up eating takeout with wine, apples, honey and pomegranates on the floor of our new house. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I guess I should have realized that my plans were a little pie-in-the-sky. (Mmmm, pie.) We just got the keys to our new house, and there was really no hope of unpacking, buying furniture, and cooking a huge meal all in 36 or so hours. So Japanese food it was. But Rosh is about new beginnings, and sitting in the middle of our living room floor, strewn with empty boxes and bubble wrap, laughing with my partner over apples and honey and takeout actually strikes me as incredibly fitting.

To new beginnings, and a new year. Shana tovah!

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