The holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to let the blasts of the shofar shake you awake to the world around you. It’s a time to open up to new possibilities and be grateful for everything you have. And more than anything, Rosh Hashanah offers the opportunity for tshuva (returning/repentance) – to return to our best, most full versions of ourselves. As we turn inward, we have the chance to ask, “what impact do our actions have on our friends and family, our communities, and on the earth?”
In celebration of this time of turning and returning, Hazon created a list of healthy, sustainable resources that will help you welcome Rosh Hashanah with mindfulness, sustainability, and joy.
Activities and rituals
Go apple picking. What could be better than dipping apples that you picked yourself, straight from the tree? Many family farms welcome visitors to pick apples, make fresh cider, and tour their grounds. Needless to say, this is a great activity for the whole family.
Eat and Learn. Rabbi Shimon said: If three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, for it is written (Ezekiel 41:22). Ask each of your Rosh Hashanah guests to bring a reading (e.g. traditional Jewish texts, Hasidic tales, a favorite poem or scene from a play, children’s book etc.) to share on a particular Rosh Hashanah-related theme. Need an example? Try “returning,” “scarcity and abundance,” or “mindfulness.” At dinner, ask your guests to share what they brought.
Get outside! Rosh Hashanah celebrations have the tendency to fall into the rhythm of pray, eat, sleep, pray, eat, sleep…eat. This year, change up that rhythm by finding some time to get outside into the crisp fall sunlight. Go for an early morning walk before synagogue, meditate outside in the afternoon, take a walk on the beach (if you’re lucky enough to live by one!), or bring your kids to the park after lunch to sing holiday songs. Whatever way you get there, don’t wait until Tashlich to get outside.
Talk about Tashlich! Use the new year’s ritual of Tashlich to have a conversation about water pollution and what your community can do about it. Learn about your local watershed, and draw connections between casting our spiritual sins into the ocean and throwing our physical trash there. Tashlich can also be a good opportunity to think about how our homes get clean water. How do we filter the physical bread crumbs out to make water safe to drink again? Tour your local water treatment plant to learn more!
Celebrate the holiday foods. Pomegranates are an important symbolic food on Rosh Hashanah, but are not necessarily local to most regions in America. Instead of eschewing them entirely from your table, take the moment to recognize why you are including this food and how it fits into your celebration. Ask someone at your dinner table to prepare a few words (a poem or fact sheet) about pomegranates, or whatever other food you’d like to highlight.
Kosher organic wine. Serve your friends and family wines from Hazon’s kosher, organic wine list. The list got a whole lot longer since Baron Herzog decided to go “sustainable” (three cheers!). The wines on this list are tasty, hechshered and good for the earth – you’ll be able to impress your friends as the world’s best sustainable sommelier.
Highlight local flavors. This year, Rosh Hashanah falls at the end of summer and beginning of early fall. It is one of the most amazing times to find fresh local vegetables through your CSA or farmers’ market. Serve a root veggie medley that highlights the vegetables of fall. Check out The Jew & The Carrot’s recipe archive for ideas.
Choose good honey. This year, dip your apples in delicious, raw honey produced by a small-scale apiary.
Seasonal centerpieces. Instead of fresh-cut flowers that will wilt after a few days, create a sustainable centerpiece that will impress your guests. Place 12 heirloom apples or pomegranates in a glass bowl, or place potted fall flowers (chrysanthemums, zinnias, marigolds, etc.) around the table to add seasonal color.
Cast away cleanup. Tashlich is one of the most beautiful moments of Rosh Hashanah where we head towards a flowing body of water and toss in bread to symbolically cast away our sins. As part of your Rosh Hashanah preparation, take a day in the week leading up to the holiday (and bring your friends and kids) to “clean up” the river or watershed where you will perform the tashlich ritual. Collect any garbage or bottles lying about and walk around to get a lay of the land. When you come back the next week, note if you feel a different connection to the space. •
Editor’s note: Hazon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to create a healthier, more sustainable Jewish community and world. It offers sustainable resources for Jewish holidays.