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Rosh HaShana “Seder” and symbolic actions.

Rosh Hashana Seder and Simanim

Esonga Bet Hashoavah services :

Wed Sep 20th              Erev Rosh HaShana

6:50    PM                  Candle Lighting

6:30    PM                  Minha / Arvit

Thu Sep 21st      1st Day of Rosh Hashana

9:00    AM                  Shaharit

11:00  AM~                Shofar

5:00    PM                 Minha

5:30    PM                Tashlich

6:00    PM                  Arvit

7:45    PM                  Candle lighting

Fri Sep 22nd        2nd Day of Rosh Hashana

8:00    AM                  Shaharit

11:00  AM                  Shofar

6:30    PM                 Minha/Arvit

6:46    PM                  Candle lighting

Sep 23rd         Shabbat Shuva

4:00    PM                  Class

5:20    PM                 Minha

6:20    PM                Arvit

7:42    PM                 Havdala

Sun Sep 24th             Fast of Gedalya

6:00    AM                  Fast Begins

7:30    PM                  Fast Ends

Erev Yom Kippurim and Yom Kippurim

 

Fri Sep 29th   Erev Yom Kippur

6:35    PM                  Candle lighting

6:35    PM                Fast Begins

6:40    PM                  Kol Nidre / Arvit

Shabbat 30th              Yom Kippur

4:00    PM                 Minha

6:00    PM                  Neilah

7:28    PM                 End of Fast Shofar

Blowing/Havdala

7:30    PM                Arvit and Bircat Halevanah

Come and join us in our Prayers services and proclaim Hashem as King.

Rosh HaShana “Seder” and symbolic actions by Rabbi Haim Ovadia

Medjool dates, apple in honey, black-eyed peas, sesame seeds, spinach, squash, and pomegranate seeds may be on our menu this coming Monday, as we sit for the first meal of the Hebrew New Year.

As exciting and wonderful as the Rosh HaShana Seder, as some call it, is, there are some questions and dilemmas surrounding it:

  • What is the exact order of the Simanim (signs)?
  • Do we eat the Simanim before or after the meal?
  • What if some people (read: the children) do not want to eat the spinach?
  • Should vegans, who would not eat the head of a lamb or a fish, eat a head of garlic cloves instead?
  • Which Simanim are included in the list?
  • And most importantly: doesn’t the whole obsession with signs on Rosh HaShana border on paganism or superstitions?

 

Let us dwell on this last one. Because of the belief that eating sweet things will lead to a sweet year, there are those who avoid eating spicy, sour, bitter, or dark-colored foods. Some foods are excluded from one community’s list, but are mandatory for another (almonds, for example). How can we understand a practice which ties the events of the year with the foods eaten at the beginning of the year? And what if a person is bed-ridden and only had liquids and medicine on Rosh HaShana? Will his year be liquidy? Advily?bed-ridden and only had liquids and medicine on Rosh HaShana? Will his year be liquidy? Advily?

To answer all these questions, and to get a better understanding of the term Siman, which many translate as omen, let us turn to the source of the practice in the Talmud.[1] It appears after several perplexing suggestions for predicting the future. The first experiment informs a person whether he will survive or not until the following Rosh HaShana. In order to discover this terrifying piece of information, one should light a candle in a house where there is not even the slightest draft. If the candle flame is unwavering, he can rest assured, but if it flickers, he’d better call the funeral home.omen, let us turn to the source of the practice in the Talmud.[1] It appears after several perplexing suggestions for predicting the future. The first experiment informs a person whether he will survive or not until the following Rosh HaShana. In order to discover this terrifying piece of information, one should light a candle in a house where there is not even the slightest draft. If the candle flame is unwavering, he can rest assured, but if it flickers, he’d better call the funeral home.

The next one deals with one who wants to start a business and would like to know if he will be successful. He is advised to buy a rooster and feed it. If the rooster becomes fatter, the novice farmer is guaranteed stellar success in his financial endeavors. If, however, the rooster remains slim waisted, our budding entrepreneur should consider visiting the employment agency. There is one more suggestion which the Talmud rejects, and then we hear the following statement from the Talmudic sage Abayye (הוריות, יב:א): Now that you say that Siman has significance, one should try to see on Rosh HaShana squash, black-eyed peas, leeks, spinach, and dates.rooster remains slim waisted, our budding entrepreneur should consider visiting the employment agency. There is one more suggestion which the Talmud rejects, and then we hear the following statement from the Talmudic sage Abayye (הוריות, יב:א): Now that you say that Siman has significance, one should try to see on Rosh HaShana squash, black-eyed peas, leeks, spinach, and dates.

I understand this Talmudic paragraph as a response to the widespread phenomenon of reliance on astrology and incantations in Babylonia. The rabbis wanted to teach people that the most accurate indicator of one’s future is his own behavior. Accordingly, in the first case we deal with someone who wants to know whether or not he will survive the year. He is told to light a candle in a draft-less home and make sure that the flame does not flicker. Oh, but it does. The terrified man scurries from wall to wall, from crevice to crevice, with plaster and a spatula but alas, for every hole he discovers, breeze comes in from ten others. If our man is somewhat wise he will stop after a while, realizing that the experiment was a sign for him. You can never cover all holes and you never know what incredible things will happen this coming year, for good or bad. At that point one starts directing his efforts during the year towards responsibility and awareness, visualizing gaps he must bridge in order to protect his flame, thus (hopefully) prolonging his life.spatula but alas, for every hole he discovers, breeze comes in from ten others. If our man is somewhat wise he will stop after a while, realizing that the experiment was a sign for him. You can never cover all holes and you never know what incredible things will happen this coming year, for good or bad. At that point one starts directing his efforts during the year towards responsibility and awareness, visualizing gaps he must bridge in order to protect his flame, thus (hopefully) prolonging his life.

In the second experiment, one is required to fatten a rooster in order to predict whether he will have success in business. Once he brings the rooster home, he understands that in order to grow it fat he has to pay constant attention. He must protect the bird from diseases and predators, provide food, water and shelter, clean after it, and rise at dawn (or at midnight) with its call. He now also understands how to succeed in business. He must work hard, pay attention to details, and be willing to accept difficulties and small failures before emerging victorious.it fat he has to pay constant attention. He must protect the bird from diseases and predators, provide food, water and shelter, clean after it, and rise at dawn (or at midnight) with its call. He now also understands how to succeed in business. He must work hard, pay attention to details, and be willing to accept difficulties and small failures before emerging victorious.

In reaction to these two very practical thought experiments, Abayye says that now we know that associating our aspirations and hopes with a visual image or object is a helpful technique. He therefore says that one should see on Rosh HaShana certain species, so the image will help him focus his thoughts during prayers. In other words, it is not seeing or eating the honeyed apple or the dates which guarantees a sweet year, but the constant image of these fruits which drives a person in the prayers and throughout the year. It is very similar to soldiers carrying the pictures of their loved ones in a locket so they will be inspired to survive at all costs.

Conclusion:

The practice of Simanim should be translated not as omens but rather as suggestive visual meditation. In the original phrasing of the practice the idea was to see, not eat, the fruits. One can therefore choose to eat or not eat any of the Simanim. The order is insignificant but it is best for all participants to follow one version to avoid conflicts. It is also a good idea to add some foods which could be easily associated with the spoken language, since the Simanim have meaning only in Hebrew.omens but rather as suggestive visual meditation. In the original phrasing of the practice the idea was to see, not eat, the fruits. One can therefore choose to eat or not eat any of the Simanim. The order is insignificant but it is best for all participants to follow one version to avoid conflicts. It is also a good idea to add some foods which could be easily associated with the spoken language, since the Simanim have meaning only in Hebrew.

If you are not eating meat you could have some candies (actually, even if you eat meat you could just look at the wrappers) which could have positive associations for English speakers such as: 5th Avenue, Skor, PayDay, Life Savers. Top it off with a Brach’s candy (for Bracha), and most importantly, make sure that everyone feels happy, relaxed, and welcomed at this Rosh HaShana Seder.PayDay, Life Savers. Top it off with a Brach’s candy (for Bracha), and most importantly, make sure that everyone feels happy, relaxed, and welcomed at this Rosh HaShana Seder.

Festive Meal
  • The festive meal of Rosh HaShana is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah (8:10). As on Shabbat and other holidays, it is what you consider to be festive. It could be fish, dairy, or vegetarian
Shofar
  • The minimal number of sounds one must hear, according to Shulhan Arukh, is nine (or ten, depends how you count Shevarim and Teruah). The set is the basic one, TSRT, TST, TRT, or: Teqiah-Shevarim-Teruah-Teqiah, Teqiah-Shevarim-Teqiah, Teqiah-Teruah-Teqiah.
  • There is therefore no need to feel stressed if one or more of the sounds of the shofar was missed, or if it sounded unclear. Also, if one is visiting bedridden people, or mothers with babies who could not make it to the synagogue, and has several visits to make, it suffices to use this set.shofar was missed, or if it sounded unclear. Also, if one is visiting bedridden people, or mothers with babies who could not make it to the synagogue, and has several visits to make, it suffices to use this set.
  • When blowing shofar for someone who did not hear shofar yet, the blessings can be recited by either the shofar-blower or the listener, whether man or woman.shofar for someone who did not hear shofar yet, the blessings can be recited by either the shofar-blower or the listener, whether man or woman.
  • It is better to recite less prayers, but have time to reflect on them and take them to heart, then keeping at pace with the community. It is told about R. Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook that on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he would only recite the Shema and the Amidah. We are uplifted and inspired by the familiar tunes and the communal singing, and we should also take time to study the prayers and find those which most resonate with us.have time to reflect on them and take them to heart, then keeping at pace with the community. It is told about R. Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook that on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he would only recite the Shema and the Amidah. We are uplifted and inspired by the familiar tunes and the communal singing, and we should also take time to study the prayers and find those which most resonate with us.

 

Dangers in the synagogue
  • We must pay special attention to potential dangers in the synagogue, such as security, health concerns, and hurting others’ feelings.
  • Synagogue’s administration should take the necessary steps to provide security during the holidays, and to prepare congregants to respond in case of a terror attack.
  • There should be medical kits available and first responders appointed.
  • In case of an emergency in the synagogue or at home, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately.
  • We should pay attention to those around us, especially the elderly, to make sure they are feeling well. This is especially important on Yom Kippur. It is better to prevent an emergency then attend to someone who has fainted, for example.then attend to someone who has fainted, for example.
  • It is also very important to make sure that no one is offended, and that fights do not break over seats, honors, or practices.fights do not break over seats, honors, or practices.

 

Tashlikh
  • Another famous and beloved symbolic act of Rosh Hashana is Tashlikh, in which people go to a river or to any water source to shake their sins away. This is a relatively late custom, first mentioned by Polish rabbis of the 16th century. The original custom was to stop by the river (probably the Wisla or Vistula), and recite the verse: ותשליך במצולות ים כל חטאתם- Please cast our sins into the abyss. With time, the practice expanded to more verses, personal prayers, readings from the Zohar, shaking the corners of one’s clothes, requiring fish in the water, and bringing breadcrumbs to feed the fish.breadcrumbs to feed the fish.
  • We can each follow our customs regarding Tashlikh, but we should keep in mind that it is a symbolic act, meant to prompt us to take the necessary steps to change our life, through repentance, reflection, and asking for forgiveness.

 

Electricity on Yom Tov
  • There is no prohibition in sing electricity on Yom Tov. To the contrary, one who does not use electricity at all, despite the solid arguments in its favor and the long tradition among most Sephardic communities, might be at fault for diminishing the joy of the holiday.sing electricity on Yom Tov. To the contrary, one who does not use electricity at all, despite the solid arguments in its favor and the long tradition among most Sephardic communities, might be at fault for diminishing the joy of the holiday.

Shana Tova uMetukauMetuka

Rabbi Haim Ovadia

 

 

Why Rambam Rarely Mentions Customs

The Rambam was looking forward to the future when we would no longer be in exile and living in Eretz Israel, (may it be soon and in our day) and we would no longer need the local minhagim of our Hakhamim and bet din to keep us unified in the exile as a family unit (Klal Israel), but as a nation gathered together, with Shoftim as in the days of old. Bound by the minhagim of Eretz Israel and the great Sanhedrin.

This is the reason the Rambam did not focus on customs in his approach to his Halachah and writings.   The Rambam was both living in the future and anticipating our Kibbutz Galiot.