Celebrate Rosh Hashanah Anywhere
The creators of Haggadot.com share their three favorite home rituals for the holiday
by Rebecca Missel, Director of Partnerships and Operations at Haggadot.com
With Rosh Hashanah just days away and the global pandemic keeping us out of the synagogue, we have the opportunity to make this New Year meaningful and memorable. HighHolidays@Home, a brand-new website from the creators of Haggadot.com, has a collection of rituals you can incorporate into your High Holiday season - all from the comfort of your home. Here, we share our three great ways to celebrate.
One: Host a Rosh Hashanah Seder
For more than 2000 years, Jewish communities around the world have elevated their Rosh Hashanah meal into a seder, with symbolic foods and wishes for the New Year. HighHolidays@Home has recorded a webinar about hosting a seder, or keep reading for ideas.
First decide on a specific purpose for why you’re gathering at this time. It can be a way to recognize the sacred act of eating in community and being present with each other. Or another reason that resonates for you. Create the sense of a temporary world by inviting everyone to bring a ritual object or something special to the table (whether you’re hosting in person or on video), decide on a dress code, or play music as people join the space. After welcoming everyone, start with a ritual that recognizes how good it is to be together. You can light candles, sing or just smile at each other.
To help you decide what to include in your Rosh Hashanah Seder, HighHolidays@Home has created two booklets. You can download these as they are, or use them as customizable templates.
Choose a Rosh Hashanah Seder with Tashlich to look back on the past and prepare for the future
Or, choose Four Toasts Seder for a quicker gathering centered on symbolic foods and the four themes of Rosh Hashanah
During your seder, take moments for reflection, guided conversation and vulnerability to make meaning of this time together, especially during the pandemic. You can go around the table or computer and have each person share a point of pride from the past year, and something they would have liked to do differently. Or, talk about your intentions for the year to come. Finally, close your seder with a ritual. Sing again, take a breath together, make a toast or shout, “Next Year in Person!”
Two: Make Sacred Space at Home
Another way to celebrate Rosh Hashanah from home is by turning a small part of your house into a spiritual sanctuary. Many Jewish homes include a mizrach to indicate the eastern wall and help us know where to direct our bodies. Now, you can transform a table into a physical space to focus your prayers and it can be made of any materials.
Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to making sacred space in your house. Or, watch a recorded webinar with even more ideas.
First, find a flat surface like a bookshelf or table. Make sure there’s enough space for everyone to gather and use multiple surfaces for family members of different heights. And don’t forget to plan around pets. Then, place a cloth on the surface to make it special. White is a color often used during the High Holidays, and blue appears throughout Jewish tradition, but you can use any color or pattern you prefer.
To make the space sacred, you can say this prayer, taken from Havdalah, when we separate the holiness Shabbat from the ordinariness of the rest of the week.
Baruch atah Adonai, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol.
Blessed are You God, who separates between the holy and the ordinary.
To personalize this space and have it reflect your wishes and intentions for the New Year, you can place family heirlooms and trinkets, or photos of your loved ones in your sacred space. Objects from nature like feathers, leaves, fragrant herbs, woods and spices are a wonderful way to involve all your senses. Favorite books and Jewish ritual items like a shofar and Kiddush cup can help the space feel spiritual, or you can write your intentions on slips of paper that you place in a jar.
Three: Embrace New At-Home Rituals
All of us have the power to create spiritual experiences that are authentic and meaningful to our experiences. Seeker Season: A Guidebook for the Curious and Courageous is full of opportunities to pray, meditate, eat, mourn, dance, make art, reflect, forgive, celebrate, heal and listen, now and into the New Year. You can use the Guidebook in your sacred space or take it out into nature. By doing these activities with intention, giving them your full attention and doing them with repetition - you can make any activity a ritual.
Did you try one of these rituals at home? Tag us @Haggadot.com or @CustomandCraft and use #RoshHashanahSeder or #JewishHomeAltars or #SeekerSeason so we can share them!
All the images in the article are from Jessica Tamar Deutsch