September is not only known for the Back-to-School season but also the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Long Island resident and writer Rachel Minkowsky details the story behind these special days and provides her very own recipe for Tzimmes.
Happy New Year! No, it’s not December. Sundown on September 5 is the start of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish new year. It’s one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar. This two-day festival celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve. It is believed that the fate of all people is recorded on this day, and it is a holiday of renewal and starting again. Most practices of Rosh Hashanah are symbolic of this larger meaning.
Much of the holiday is typically spent in synagogue. The culminating event is listening to the shofar, an animal horn turned into an instrument. This is a symbolic wake up call for Jews to repent their past mistakes. Many people will go to tashlikh services, where breadcrumbs are ritually cast into bodies of running water, as a means of “throwing away” the year’s sins.
Food is a large part of the celebration. What appears on the dinner table is dictated by local customs, but most dishes are sweet, reflecting a wish for a “sweet new year.” The most commonly known snack is apples or challah slices soft, braided bread) dipped in honey.
Tzimmes (honey-baked fruit and vegetables) is a favorite side dish, and it’s simple to make.
1 bag carrots, peeled and cut into 2” chunks
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup pitted prunes, sliced in half
1/2 cup honey
1 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp salted butter
- Boil water in large pot.
- Wash and peel carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Place carrots and potatoes in boiling water. Cover pot. Let cook until tender but firm.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Oil shallow baking dish.
- Drain carrots and potatoes. Place in baking dish with prunes. Mix gently.
- Mix orange juice, honey, salt, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Pour over casserole.
- Dot top with butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Stir gently and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
The week and a half between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called “the Days of Awe” where Jews worldwide try to make amends for past offenses. It is believed that a person’s fate is written in the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, and this year it falls on Saturday, September 14. The title literally translates to “Day of Atonement.” It is a last chance to repent for past misbehavior before the Book is closed.
People do not wish each other a “happy Yom Kippur,” since it is not a particularly happy holiday. The mood is usually somber. Jews will not eat or drink from sundown to nightfall the next day (though pregnant women, young children, and those with health problems are exempt from this practice). Observant families will also refrain from working, bathing, using beauty products, and from engaging in martial relations. The bulk of the day is traditionally spent in synagogue participating in special Yom Kippur services. At the end of Yom Kippur, families will break their fast together.
Find a synagogue on Long Island HERE.
By Rachel Minkowsky