The High Holidays:
Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot
The High Holidays are actually the most important holidays of the year, and yet, they are the ones that most people don't know about! Well, no more of that! This article is made to make YOU look like the Jewish High Holiday know-it-all! Amaze your Jewish friends! Astound your non-Jewish friends! And (if you are Jewish and don't know about the High Holidays) no more will you be teased about being such a klutz at Judaism.
Rosh Hashannah is the Jewish new year. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashannah literally means "Head of the Year". first of the high holidays, and it happens in the middle of autumn. The reason for this is that the Hasidic rabbies (leaders of Judiasm) didn't want the new year to represent anything other than God- they didn't want their new year to happen in spring, when nature (plants and animals) is growing, which they thought would be seen as worship of Nature, and they didn't want to have it at Winter Solstice, after which daylight would increase, which they thought would be seen as worship of the sun. So the rabbies chose to have Rosh Hashannah in the fall, when plants are dying and sunlight is waning. For Rosh Hashannah, we have a variety of traditions: We eat apples dipped in honey, and challah, a light, sweet bread that for Rosh Hashannah has raisins in it, which is shaped like a turban-like crown for the "head" of the year. So why do we eat all of this special food- what do these foods all have in common? It's pretty simple; all of the food is sweet- for a "sweet" and happy new year.
Yom Kippur is the least festive holiday that comes right after Rosh Hashannah. It is a very solemn holiday- in Hebrew it means "Day of Atonement". This means that Yom Kippur is the day that you think of the past year, and the year ahead of you- it's the time to take stock of everything you've done in the past year, and what you want to change in the new year. A lot of people take the day off, and go somewhere pretty, like the arboritum, to think about the mistakes and hurtful things that you've done. Some of the things that you do for this holiday are write down all of the traits or actions that you don't want any more on pieces of paper, and then burn them, so that they leave you. Another thing that you can do is throw breadcrumbs into a river or stream, the breadcrumbs being symbolic of those same things that you are ready to let flow away from you. Sometimes it's hard to do that; maybe you want to try to be less dependent on your parents, even when it would be so nice and easy to let them take care of you completely. But in the end, Yom Kippur has a positive effect on most people who observe it.
While Rosh Hashannah happens when it does to avoid any misconceptions of Nature-worship, Sukkot is actually a purely nature-related holiday. It is a harvest holiday, occuring when usually harvest happens. In the ancient days, Jews used to work very hard every day to bring in the harvest, and a lot of times, the fields would be far away from their homes, or the harvesters would be too tired to go home after a long day's worth. Because of this, they built little huts, called a sukkah. This is how Sukkot got its name; Sukkot is the plural of sukkah. According to Jewish tradition, a sukkah MUST be a temporary structure that has at least 3 walls, with an opening to go through. The roof of the sukkah cannot be waterproof, and you must be able to see the stars through it. Most people put pine branches over their sukkah, although you could even put nylon! Decoration has also become a fun part of Sukkot. Many people decorate the ground with brightly-colored leaves, put colored paper chains along the sukkah's frame, and hang gourds from the "roof". Now, most people only eat in the sukkah for dinners, but originally, the sukkah was made so that the harvesters could sleep in a relatively comfortable, easy-to-put-up, shack. Another tradition is to invite people into your sukkah. You can invite a friend or a relative into the Sukkah, or you can invite the spirit or memory of a person who cannot be there.
Ariel L., Julian Middle School, Oak Park, IL.