Tag Archives: reflection

Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year’s Day

Rosh Hashanah

One of many important and religious holidays celebrated by Jews around the world is Rosh Hashanah, which falls on the first day of Tishri, the first month in the Jewish calendar. The day may land anywhere from September 6th to October 5th. The Jewish year is divided into twelve lunar months, with an extra month every two or three years, each month containing 354 days, while the year with 13 months lasts 383 days. This day is also commonly called the Feast of Trumpets and marks the beginning of a ten-day period of observance that ends with the celebration of Yom Kippur, or the Solemn Day of Atonement.

Contrary to how most other religions celebrate and ring in New Year, the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah is a somber occasion, and not meant for merrymaking. It’s meant to be a time during which those of the Jewish faith search their hearts and strive to improve themselves. It’s a time for reflection and meditation, and while not an observance that requires methods of mourning or sacrifice, sees most of the faith behaving in a quiet, reserved manner.

Most faiths believe that in some manner, all humans will someday be judged before their Maker, and those of the Jewish faith believe that Rosh Hashanah is the day in which ‘all creatures pass review of the searching eye of Omnipotence’. It is also a day during which those of the Jewish faith believe that God receives the report of Satan and as such, often say to one another in passing, “May you be inscribed for a Happy New Year,” which refers to the belief that all names are written in a Book of Life.

The time leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a time of much activity for most Jewish families, and everyone helps with cleaning and shopping for new clothes and food with which to observe the date. Prayer services are held at local synagogues in towns and cities across America, and on many occasions, the sound of a Shofar, or a ram’s horn trumpet echoes throughout neighborhoods, a sound that announces a symbolic tone of both hope and warning. The Shofar is also believed to confuse and frighten Satan. This unique instrument sounds one hundred notes each day of the observance. The sound, unlike anything many people have ever heard before, is meant to remind all Jews of the solemnity of the day and urges them to reflect on their behavior and lives during the past year. Rabbi’s read from the Torah, the holy book of the Jewish faith.

No one works on Rosh Hashanah and much of the day is spent in a synagogue, where special prayers and litanies are offered. Another time honored tradition known as ‘casting off’ is honored this day, and involves the faithful walking to a source of flowing water, where they empty their pockets into the water in a gesture meant to symbolize the casting away of sins. Pieces of bread stored in pockets serve this purpose.

A fine table is traditionally set for the dinner honored on that day, and laden with fine dishes and foods. Candles are lit as well, and prayers offered. Men, women and children dress in their finest clothes and gather with their families to attend this feast. Apples and bread dipped in honey are a traditional food, which symbolize a wish for a sweet new year.

The observances of Rosh Hashanah differ slightly depending on whether the Jewish person recognizing the day is a reformed or an orthodox or conservative Jew, but throughout the world, Rosh Hashanah is a time honored tradition that has lasted thousands of years, and will continue to do so, both in the United States and abroad.

Reflections on Good Friday

Good Friday

Many young people wonder how a day that experienced such tragic sadness could be called ‘Good Friday’. Good Friday is one of the most somber religious holidays in the Christian religion and always falls on, naturally, the Friday before Easter. It is on Good Friday that Christians believe that the Roman official Pontius Pilate crucified Jesus Christ. Some believe that the name ‘Good Friday’ used to be called ‘God’s Friday’; while others believe it is so named because of the good that came to the world through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Christians observe Good Friday in different ways throughout the world, but in the United States, it is observed with a Friday evening church service or mass. Churchgoers generally wear dark, somber clothing, and priests and pastors throughout the country wear black as well. Altars are bare or somberly covered. In many countries, churchgoers leave church services and observe a period of silence, in reflection of the occasion.

According to Christian historians, Jesus Christ was nailed and hung from a cross around noon on Good Friday, and tortured and mocked for three hours until he died at approximately three o’clock in the afternoon. Because of the approaching Jewish Sabbath, his body was quickly buried in a tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The following Sunday morning, several women went to the tomb to properly prepare his body for burial, only to discover that His tomb was empty.

Protestant Christians and Catholics honor the day in different ways. In most Catholic churches in America, the ‘stations of the cross’ are observed, a symbolic manner in which parishioners follow Christ’s path from his entry to Jerusalem to his crucifixion. For all Christian religions, the emphasis is placed on Christ’s sacrifice for the good of the human race, and as such, are admonished to live life in a way in which will honor such goodness and sacrifice.

Many states within America close their shops and businesses early on Good Friday in order to commemorate the holy day, which is also known as the Festival of the Crucifixion, or the Day of Salvation to some. Many churches around the country hold three-hour church services, from twelve o’clock noon to three o’clock in the afternoon, the approximate time that Jesus Christ is believed to have suffered on the cross before his death. Prayers, somber hymns and silent meditations often accompany such services. Evening services are also held in many religious denominations in the country. Good Friday is one of the most important days in Christian history, and is reserved for sacred and solemn reflection.

Good Friday has become a day in which ‘passion plays’ are watched, plays which re-enact the passion and sufferings of Christ during his last hours on earth. Other beliefs have risen from the events that took place on that first Good Friday, one of them regarding the number ‘thirteen’. In the United States, thirteen is still considered an unlucky number, because thirteen people sat around the table during Christ’s Last Supper.

Good Friday, one of the holiest of days in Christianity, is not so much a holiday as it is a day to reflect on our humanity and the possibility of life after death. Christians believe that through Christ’s crucifixion and death it is now possible for all to attain life after death, as evidenced by his resurrection and ascension into heaven on Easter Sunday. For over two thousand years, Christians have believe this, and nothing said or done will shake their faith in this extraordinary event that is celebrated by millions of Americans the second or third Sunday of every April every year without fail.