Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Since I had too many unanswered questions for the blog I had envisioned for today I am flip-flopping it with the one that I planned to post on Wednesday the day before the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a two day religious holiday although the majority of Reformed Jews only observe the first day even though there are the traditional services held on the Second Day.
The purpose of this blog is as an introduction to acquaint others with the history and significance of this day and if desired this subsequent next 15 days of religious significance to observing Jews here and worldwide.
On Wednesday eve and Thursday until sunset; Jews will celebrate Rosh Hashanah the first day of the ten days that mark the High Holy days terminating in Yom Kippur, the fast day of repentance. There are many differences in the observance of this period between the different branches of Judaism; Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, and Reconstructionist. There are also two major ritual divisions between the Sephardic Jews whose origin was in Spain during the Moors dominance and the Ashkenazi from Eastern Europe and Germany.
None of this is any more complicated than the multiple divisions in Christianity. For example although the basic concepts of Christianity is the same for all Christians; there are major differences in interpretation or observation by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Southern Baptists, Greek Orthodox. or Coptic. These could be and have been fought over to the death as different religions
Rather than describe in my own words the meaning of these Holy Days; this is how Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership expressed it: “Rosh Hashanah is about relationships. Whether between individuals and the God in whom they believe, communities and the traditions which define them, or simply between individuals, whether any God or tradition is part of their lives, it’s all about sustaining relationships which sustain us and help us do the same for others.”
Even at my tender age there are facts that I never knew about Rosh Hashanah. According to an article in the Jewish World Review*: the ancient Hebrews probably had no concept of when the year started at all. Nor did they give the months names: the Torah merely enumerating them - "the first month", "the seventh month."
Nowadays we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the first day of the fall month of Tishrei. But in biblical times, that period was explicitly called "the seventh month". During the First Temple period (8th to mid-6th century BCE), the year began in the spring, on the first day of Nisan.
Also, when listing the holidays, the Bible always starts with the spring holiday of Passover, in the seventh month – Nisan
The first day of Tishrei does have one other significance we do know of, based on the Book of Ezekiel. That prophet, at the very end of the First Temple period, prescribes that the Temple should be purified on the first of Tishrei.
We don’t know what the religious life of the Jews was like during the Babylonian exile. But we do know that by the time the Jews returned to Israel, and at the beginning of the Second Temple period (516 BCE), Jewish religious practices had profoundly changed compared with the pre-exile era.
For one, the names of the months that we use to this very day are the Babylonian names. Tishrei for example is a Babylonian month whose name derives from the Akkadian word tishritu - “beginning.”
In addition, the Babylonians took their New Year’s Day celebrations very seriously. They called the holiday Akitu (from the Sumerian word for barley) and Resh Shattim, the Akkadian equivalent of the Hebrew Rosh Hashanah. This was celebrated twice a year, at the beginning of Tishrei and the beginning of Nisan, and lasted for 12 days.
It isn’t really clear when Rosh Hashanah began to be celebrated as a holiday in its own right, though clearly it was during the time of the Second Temple. All we can say for sure is that books written during this period, such as the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Maccabees, or the Dead Sea Scrolls, don’t mention any "Rosh Hashanah."
We first hear about it in the early rabbinic literature in the Mishnah and the Tosefta, both redacted at about 200 CE, and both having a tractate called Rosh Hashanah, dealing with the holiday and issues related to the calendar. It is in these texts that we first have elaboration on the importance of the holiday and its tradition”s.
Other tidbits;” Originally, Rosh Hashanah was a one-day celebration. How it came to be celebrated over two days is because of a communication problem.
The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle. A new month began when the new moon rose. The rise of each new moon was determined by a rabbinic council in Jerusalem and later in Yavne, based on witness accounts. Messengers would then be sent through the land, delivering the news to the populace that the new month had begun.
But regarding Rosh Hashanah, celebration would have to begin immediately. By the time the news reached the farther-flung parts of Palestine, let alone elsewhere, the land, the day would be long over.
Holidays such as Sukkot and Passover didn't present a problem – they take place about two weeks after the start of the new month.
Later, when the calendar was no longer determined by council and the two-day holiday was no longer needed, (not to mention that people could look into the sky themselves), the rabbis decided to leave the custom anyway.
In Europe, during the High Middle Ages, the consumption of honey evolved into eating challah and fruit, which today has become almost universally apples dipped in honey. A new tradition of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah arose at about the same time, based on the false belief that the number of seeds in a pomegranate is 613, the same as the number of Jewish commandments.
Tashlikh, emptying one’s pockets into the sea or river (or, when these aren’t accessible, a well) on Rosh Hashanah is first mentioned in the 15th century and is now a common tradition among observant Jews. This is supposed to symbolize the clearing of oneself of sin. “
Ain’t History informative and interesting even if it represents useless knowledge?
*Unfortunately I lost the article reference and can’t re-find on google.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Another weekend of football, and Sunday my daughter, son-in-law and nephew and wife who had been using my home as a staging area returned from the cruise they had been on. Thus no time to write an essay about the world or OZ.
But that did not keep me from thinking about what might be good for OZ. I was ruminating about Jerry’s recent blog and his comments about getting his sons jobs with the city as well as those from the many anomies who made posted comments to Bernice’s and my blogs as well as David’s about patronage and nepotism. It struck me that it would valuable to the people if every person who has an elected or appointed position with the city or any of its agencies would make public all other positions they, their spouses, their children or siblings including significant others have with either city, county, or associated entities.
Perhaps that could be extended to include State employment.
Why do I think it important? For an example it could be possible that one of the Councilors in voting might be influenced in some manner by such a relationship. Even if that were not happening any possible conflict of interest should be made public. This type relationship could also be a possibility of influence for any Administrator in making planning decisions, especially one that could mean an economic gain for a third party.
This information could be include in the individual’s public dossier.
I know that would have as much chance of having official policy approval as the proverbial snowball in H***; but one can dream. Perhaps if officialdom did not find that worthwhile a watchdog group could collate such information.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Football weekend and the NHL begins training camp. Yes summer ends in two more days. One of the news anchor s called it the official end of summer; but in my old fashion life that took place on Labor Day when schools started. Monday is the midpoint between the longest and shortest days of the year, when it becomes autumn. The leaves have been dropping for over a week.
Thank goodness Bernice attends the Planning Board meetings. Without her the second blockbuster of the week may have gone unnoticed.
Once again PHA has demonstrated that it is another agency full of political appointees that seems to be susceptible to outside influence.
What ever happened to the Town Houses? Somebody designed the project; who? Was there ever a developer? Who is behind this senior citizen building project? Certainly this is not the ideal neighborhood for frail seniors. There are lots of questions that need answers.