“L’Shana Tova!” These are words that we utter every autumn during the high holidays as we wish one another a sweet new year.
To me, this cozy, warm, inviting phrase is at the epicenter of the meaning of Rosh Hashanah. To wish one another a sweet new year is one of my favourite aspects of the holiday. But what does this actually look like in reality? There are so many ways in which we can embody “L’Shana Tova” today, and every day of the upcoming year:
- Seeking out the activities, traditions, and food to which we feel connected is one way to practice living the sweet life. For me, nothing screams “L’Shana Tova” more than when I am feeding my friends and family home-cooked meals. There is a lot of love to be found in sharing a meal together. This Rosh Hashanah, I am making my grandma’s recipe for Zwetschgnkuchen (a German plum cake that certain Ashkenazi Jewish families eat during Rosh Hashanah) which my family always has around the holidays. It is delicious, sweet, contains the practice of eating a new fruit of the season (a custom for some people during Rosh Hashanah), and says to those at the dinner table…. “Come, let’s eat, and experience the good things in life together!” As for how I am bringing this particular form of sweetness to my role at Hillel this year? If you ever see me at an event where food is served and I’m not trying to hand you a plate of food, you ought to be concerned! At Queen’s Hillel, I want us to bond over our shared interests and connections as we celebrate throughout the year.
- Another way to create a sweet year is to recognize when our actions come from a place of kindness. Creating a sweeter year also means acknowledging when we have said something hurtful and “making right our wrongs”. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we all have said or done something harmful at one point or another. It is a part of being human. Yet, by focusing on creating more sweetness in the world rather than on negative behaviours, we are embodying Jewish values.
- For many of us, a sweet new year is embodied in the images of apples and honey. Seeing them on our tables can remind us that having a good core and inner voice is essential to how we share ourselves with the outside world. If we are not sweet on the inside, then even if we cover it up, it still won’t be appealing on the outside. I mean, we’ve all had that one apple that was way too tart or mushy, and no amount of honey could make it better! So taking stock and looking inwards allows for an outward projection of goodness. The beauty of Rosh Hashanah is that we are able to return again and again to our favourite foods, to symbolic motifs, and to the process of taking stock of ourselves and our lives… and how lucky are we?! It is a sweet blessing indeed.
At the close of 5779, and the start of 5780, let me be the first to wish you a happy, healthy, and sweet new year! I’d love to hear from you and how you aim to embody the ideas of L’Shana Tova in 5780!