JLW Blog: How I Celebrate Rosh Hashanah

By: Diane Berinstein

When someone asks me about Rosh Hashanah my first thought is always the pots of honey that I’ll serve to usher in a sweet year! The holiday is not about meals and honey though. It’s a time for deep introspection and reflection, with the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur being a time to ask forgiveness from those we may have hurt or slighted over the past year and re-commit to living a life of compassion and honesty.

This year, I am focusing on a passage in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:20, “Justice, Justice you shall pursue, that you may thrive…” and its many rabbinic interpretations. One of my favorite interpretations so appropriate to this season of reflection and forgiveness is from Torah commentator Ibn Ezra (early 12th century, present day Spain). Ezra conveys that the word Tzedek (justice) is repeated to emphasize that when pursuing justice there are often multiple arguments. He imagines two parties with seemingly opposite views, both pursuing justice. If while arguing for justice each side respects the opposing side as also intent on justice, they can argue not with the goal of winning but with the goal of understanding and finding common ground. I think that is particularly relevant today, where we often seem so polarized on big issues, but underneath, in the day-to-day, opposing sides have many of the same underlying goals. Because in reality, if we only fight to win, we sow resentment, but if we fight to build understanding and create change, then we all come out ahead.

BUT — on the lighter side, there’s sweet food!  It’s a struggle to balance all the sweetness in a Rosh Hashanah holiday meal — carrots cut like pieces of gold coins seasoned with honey and cinnamon, sweet potatoes, often served cooked with dried fruit and more honey, salads laced with pomegranate seeds or dressed with pomegranate and date syrup, apple cakes and honey cakes… it’s a lot!

My Rosh Hashanah tradition is to gift friends and family with special jars of honey for their holiday table.  Rosh Hashanah is not a gift giving holiday, but I love honey, and with the growing diversity of honey products, it’s a way for me to share unique honeys with others.  At our holiday tables, we set out an assortment of honey and from year to year. There’s often as much thought given to which honeys to serve as there is to which desserts to bake! All of my honeys are from small businesses, and most are local, though my family and I were introduced to Rango Honey while in Arizona last year. Their mesquite honey has a very distinct flavor, and their company’s mission to “create a brand centered around love, support and inclusivity” touches my heart.  They partner with other local organizations to provide job training to young adults on the spectrum and support an assisted living home for adults living with disabilities.

L’shanah tovah tikatevu!

(Happy new year and may you be inscribed [in the book of life] for a good year!)