Rosh Hashanah

September 16, 2004 | 23 comments
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Over at my own blog, I’ve posted some (as is my wont, lengthy) reflections on the importance of celebrating holidays, even those that aren’t, strictly speaking, one’s own. The occasion, of course, is that today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (Actually it began last night at sundown, but the formal holiday is today.) As I’ve mentioned a few times before here at Times and Seasons, I’m a fan of holidays–I think their religious, historical, communal and moral importance to one’s personal and family life can only with difficulty be overstated. And that goes especially for religious holidays (despite the fact that, as I note, the closest connection I have to the Hebrew people is through my brother-in-law’s wife.) In any case, holidays of such importance as the Jewish New Year deserve a little bit of thought from us Mormons, especially considering the important parallels between our two peoples. Shana Tova, everyone!

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23 Responses to Rosh Hashanah

  1. Chad Too on September 16, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I mentioned this elsewhere, but my best friend is a Jewish convert to the Church so to honor his heritage (and to teach my 7-year-old more about it) We’re doing the full Rosh Hashanah dinner together tonight. Chicken soup from scratch, matzo balls, potato latkes, and his wife is baking challah bread as we speak. I can hardly wait!

  2. MDS on September 16, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    And let’s not forget that Rosh Hashanah has some significance for our religion as well, with Moroni delivering up the plates to Joseph on that day.

  3. danithew on September 16, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Ummmmmm, challah.

  4. Russell Arben Fox on September 16, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Melissa’s challah is really quite good. And after experimenting with a variety of ehtnic Jewish foods for our Rosh Hashanah dinner, we ended up with a simple, hearty chicken soup as well. It makes for a fine meal, though we had ours last night.

    Actually, a large number of the holidays we celebrate in our family are tied up in our dinner menus for that evening. We may have games, or stories, or music, but mostly we have some relatively appropriate food. Shepherd’s pie on St. Andrew’s Day. Beef stew and Irish soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day. Pulkogi on Ch’usoknal. Roast pork and pineapple on King Kamehameha Day. And something really fattening on Mardi Gras. It’s fun.

  5. ronin on September 16, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    L’Shana Tovah, to all our Jewish friends!!!!

  6. Bryce I on September 16, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    I grew up in a town with a strong Jewish community. We always started off the school year right after Labor Day by immediately turning around and taking off Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

    Sadly, we did nothing to observe them.

  7. Chad Too on September 16, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    It’s not too late, Bryce. Surely they have chickens in the triangle… Boil one tonight!

  8. Kristine on September 16, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    I love the little bit that I understand about what is to be done between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur–a period of introspection and reconciliation with one’s neighbors, bracketed on either side by celebrations involving food–what’s not to like?!

  9. Nate Oman on September 16, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    It depends entirely on one’s neighbors…

  10. Jim F on September 16, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    Nate, are you talking about your neighbors or quoting them?

  11. Jonathan Green on September 16, 2004 at 9:24 pm

    I’m all for celebrating extra holidays, especially other people’s, as it can be more fun to celebrate without the guilt that comes with an obligation to celebrate. But why stop at adding a day here or there? If you want to do it in style, you need the whole liturgical year. Seriously, what better way to stoke the Christmas anticipation, than by commemorating the four Advent Sundays and St. Nicholas? Then spread Christmas out over three days (Christmas Eve, First Christmas Day, Second Christmas Day) and don’t let life return to normal until Three Kings. The same for Easter: mostly, we let our celebration of Easter fit into one sacrament meeting, when we could have Palm Sunday and Good Friday to remind us what’s coming up, to say nothing of Carnival and Lent.

    They’re not our holidays, but living in places where they’re everybody else’s holidays can be a lot of fun and even, now and again, a spiritually uplifting experience.

  12. Russell Arben Fox on September 16, 2004 at 10:00 pm

    I agree with you Jonathan; especially when it comes to the Christian tradition, Melissa and I tend to draw in as much of the liturgical calendar as we can in our celebrations. We have an advent calendar and candle; we bless our home on Three Kings Day (which is our small attempt to incorporate the old European tradition of neighborhood figures playing the wise men visiting homes and offering prayers and gifts on Epiphany); we celebrate Mardi Gras and make commitments for Lent; and we’re trying to find an appropriate way to honor Good Friday. Our family holiday calendar is a work in progress, but if anything is growing as the years go by, not shrinking.

  13. Mark B on September 16, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    A great way to spend Good Friday in New York is at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, where Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is performed as their midday (12:00 to 3:00) worship service.

    Great music–and you get to sing along with some of the choruses–and a good way to contemplate the sacrifice of our Lord.

    I’ll look for you next spring.

  14. diogenes on September 16, 2004 at 11:55 pm

    Our family holiday calendar is a work in progress, but if anything is growing as the years go by, not shrinking.

    Hm — well, there are a number of Shi’ite holidays where the celebrants flagellate and cut themselves in a frenzy of grief over the deaths of various Imams, particularly Ali.

    Might make for an interesting addition to the family calendar.

  15. Dan Richards on September 17, 2004 at 2:04 am

    Anybody aware of any non-Mormons who celebrate Pioneer Day? Do we have anything else to add to the panoply of holidays?

  16. Nate Oman on September 17, 2004 at 8:18 am

    Russell: About fifteen or twenty years ago Steven Olsen (anthropology Ph.D, U.Chi, current director of the church historical department) did an article in Sunstone the role of pioneer day as a Mormon holiday. You might want to look it up.

  17. Charles on September 17, 2004 at 9:55 am

    I’m all for celebrating the jubilation. Now if only I can get my banks to clear all my debts.

  18. danithew on September 17, 2004 at 9:59 am

    If someone has already mentioned this holiday, shoot me. :)

    Purim (the Jewish celebration of the story of Esther) is a fun holiday. It’s a day that Jewish children dress up as their heroes (Biblical or otherwise). If you can manage to be a guest at a synagogue on that day, you’ll not only see the children in their costumes but you’ll also be able to hear the rabbi read the entire book of Esther (which isn’t all that long really). Every time the name Haman comes up everyone boos and hisses. They also bring noisemakers that they use at that time as well.

    One caveat: if you’re in an orthodox synagogue, the men and women will be sitting in separate sections.

  19. Ronan James Head on September 17, 2004 at 10:29 am

    I don’t think anyone outside of Utah celebrates Pioneer Day. I haven’t anyway. I wish there was a cool Mormon holiday. One of the most remarkable achievements of Mormon PR was to have the BBC include Mormonism as one of the World Religions on its website:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/mormon/index.shtml

    But when you click on “Holy Days” you realise we don’t have anything of significance that we can claim as our own. How sad! So, when the day comes that a Jewish family can say, “hey, let’s celebrate the Mormon holiday”, you know we’ve officially made World Religion status.

  20. Chad Too on September 17, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    I started my current job in April 1995. My schedule was all over the place, so I checked it regularly. One week, I noticed I wasn’t down for my 40-hours, only 30 (I worked four 10-hour days then). I went to my then-boss and asked if there was a reason I wasn’t on the schedule for Monday. She explained that it was July 24th, and she’d given me the religious holiday off.

    This boss, a Brooklyn Jew, had lived and worked in Salt Lake for a couple of years and July 24 was her favorite holiday. She credited it’s perfect locaton on the calendar; approximately midway between Independence Day and Labor Day.

    I told her that I appreciated the sentiment, but that Pioneer Day wasn’t really a religious holiday, it was more of a Utah state holiday, to which she wisely replied, “and in Utah the difference is…?”

    I’ve had every July 24 off since.

  21. john fowles on September 17, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Ronan, I have wondered about the absence of LDS religious holidays, and while I agree with Russell’s initial praise of the cultural and social value of holidays, I have come to the conclusion that the Church is too practical for religious holidays. The absence of the liturgical calendar or other religious holidays celebrated by other Christians also underscores the difference between the restored Gospel and a Gospel system set up over centuries by philosophers and scholars, drawing from and incorporating pagan religious calendars.

    Having said that, and having lived in various European countries, including Germany and England (but not Austria, sorry!), I am a huge fan of the liturgical calendar and religious holidays. In fact, I often find myself still thinking in terms of Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity terms, and looking forward to Advent, even though it has been several years since living in England or Germany.

  22. danithew on September 17, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    I was kind of surprised and disappointed to see how few holidays Islam celebrates. Maybe I still need to study that more but overall I just got the impression that while Muslims do celebrate holy days or holidays, the overall festivity seems to be somewhat muted in comparison to those of other religions.

    After living in Israel/Palestine for three years I was delighted to re-discover the festivity, decorations, trees, etc. of Christmas. Though Christmas in Bethlehem is certainly memorable (especially when you hear Yasir Arafat trying to talk about Jesus or sing carols at a ceremony) I have to say that seeing everything that goes up in the U.S. is really a blast. I actually have come to like the commercialization of Christmas as a result, because in my mind it just adds to the overall festivity and excitement, the like of which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

    It was interesting living in Israel because the Jewish Americans co-students in my classes often expressed relief that they didn’t have to deal with all the Christmas type stuff during December that they were confronted with in the States. I also heard a Hebrew teacher of mine express great admiration for the beauty of Christmas trees she had seen in Europe. One of the students then asked her: “Would you put up a Christmas tree?” The teacher kind of smirked and looked at the student as if to say: “Are you nuts?”

  23. Jonathan Green on September 18, 2004 at 9:45 am

    While we’re at it, we should remember that Americans do have perhaps the best holiday ever invented: Thanksgiving. Nothing to buy, no presents, no costumes, not too many official events, no parades to march in, just lots of really great food to eat and a whole day plus a weekend to recover. And the official message–be thankful!–goes down pretty easy, so you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to put on a straight face and think about the real reason for the season in between grabbing handfuls of turkey and pumpkin pie. Since moving to Charleston, I’ve discovered two more reasons to be thankful: deep-fried turkey and sweet potatoes overloaded with brown sugar, butter, and pecans. Does any holiday better capture the spirit of our religion than the one that basically begins and ends with a blessing on the refreshments?