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Back to School and the Jewish High Holy Days

Image of red apples
Back to school
Summer is over and school is upon up. Most kids get ready for school with a special class supply list, a backpack and some new clothes to start their year. Home made lunches will get the kids through the day as long as they are filled with plenty of nutrition. Nowadays, many school lunch programs are offering fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their cafeteria menu. If your school doesn’t offer them, make sure you pack plenty of easy to snack on treats for your child and their friends… Fresh carrots and light ranch dip are always popular as well as snap peas, broccoli pieces and teardrop tomatoes. Try slicing some fresh cucumbers; they are refreshing and low-calorie, too. Fresh fruit cut into cubes makes a perfect addition to lunch as well as adding some natural energy to your child’s day. Sliced apples with some low-fat cheese or even low-fat caramel are also a perfect snack. Whatever you prepare and send to school, make sure you make it appealing so your child will eat it!

Jewish High Holy Days
The Jewish High Holy Days are observed during the 10 day period between the first day (Rosh Hashanah) and the 10th day (Yom Kippur) of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most important of all Jewish Holidays and the only holidays that are purely religious, as they are not related to any historical or natural event. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated the first and second days of Tishri. This year, it is September 8th at sundown. It is a time of family gatherings, special meals and sweet tasting foods. Rosh Hashanah begins a 10 day period, known as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im, a time of penitence and prayer that ends with Yom Kippur. Jews worldwide are given these 10 days to repent for their sins and ask G-d for forgiveness. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish year and is observed on the tenth day of Tishri. This year it is September 17 at sundown. It is a day of fasting, reflection and prayers. "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life" is the common greeting during this period as it is believed that on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of all mankind is recorded by G-d in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur the Book is closed and sealed. Those that have repented for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.

The Jewish Holiday Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is widely known and celebrated as the New Years Day of the Jewish calendar, but actually Rosh Hashanah has a fourfold meaning: It is the Jewish New Year, the Day of Judgment, the Day of Remembrance, and the Day of Shofar Blowing.
  • It is the Day of Judgment: As Jews worldwide examine their past deeds and asks for forgiveness for their sins.
  • It is the Day of Shofar Blowing: The Shofar (the ram’s horn) is blown in the temple to herald the beginning of the 10 day period know as the High Holy Days.
  • It is the Day of Remembrance: As Jews review the history of their people and pray for Israel.
And of course it is New Year's Day: Celebrated with its holiday greeting cards, special prayers, and festive and sweet foods, to ensure sweetness in the New Year.

The Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most sacred of the Jewish holidays, the "Sabbath of Sabbaths." By the time Yom Kippur arrives, the 40 days of repentance, (that begins with the first of Elul), have passed. On Rosh Hashanah G-d has judged most of mankind and has recorded his judgment in the Book of Life, but he has given a 10 day reprieve. On Yom Kippur the Book of Life is closed and sealed. Those that have repented for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year. Since Yom Kippur is the day to ask forgiveness for promises broken to G-d, the day before is reserved for asking forgiveness for broken promises between people, as G-d cannot forgive broken promises between people. Yom Kippur is a day of "NOT" doing. There is no blowing of the Shofar and Jews may not eat or drink, as fasting is the rule. It is believed that to fast on Yom Kippur is to emulate the angels in heaven, who do not eat, drink, or wash.

The Five Prohibitions of Yom Kippur
  1. Eating and drinking
  2. Anointing with perfumes or lotions
  3. Martial relations
  4. Washing
  5. Wearing leather shoes
While Yom Kippur is devoted to fasting (no food or drink from sundown to sundown), the day before is devoted to eating. According to the Talmud, those “who eat on the ninth of Tishri (and fast on the tenth), it is as if he had fasted both the ninth and tenth.” Prayer is also down played so that Jews can concentrate on eating and preparing for the fast. This celebration is known as the "break-the-fast".

On the eve of Yom Kippur the community joins at the synagogue. Men put on prayer shawls and then as the night falls the cantor begins the "Kol Nidre". It is repeated 3 times, each time in a louder voice. The “Kol Nidre” emphasizes the importance in keeping vows, as violating an oath is one of the worst sins. An important part of the Yom Kippur service is the "Vidui" (Viduy) or confession. The confessions serve to help reflect on ones misdeeds and to confess them verbally is part of the formal repentance in asking G-d's forgiveness. Because community and unity are an important part of Jewish life, the confessions are said in the plural (We are guilty).

As Yom Kippur ends, the last hour there is a service called "Ne'ila" (Neilah) which offers a final opportunity for repentance. It is the only service of the year during which the doors to the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the beginning to end of the service, signifying that the gates of Heaven are open at this time. The service closes with the verse, said 7 times, "The L-rd is our G-d." The Shofar is sounded once and the congregation proclaim - "Next year in Jerusalem." Yom Kippur is now over and the break-the-fast celebration begins. Families gather together, say a prayer over the challah (bread) and wine and enjoy traditional foods prepared the evening prior.

High Holy Day Fruits and Vegetables
Image of pomegranates
Most of the foods eaten during Rosh Hashanah represent a sweet future: Carrots, Raisins, Apples, Sweet Potatoes, Pomegranates, Prunes and Honey. These are some of the more popular items eaten, as nothing should be sour or bitter: Leeks, Onions, Beets, Turnips, Quince, Gourds, Anise, Pumpkins and Zucchini. These are all considered symbolic of fertility, abundance and prosperity, making them an important part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition.

Some other items used in preparing traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes are: Squash, Yams, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Nuts, Grapes, Plums, Lemons, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Herbs, Pineapples and Apricots. Traditional foods generally eaten before Yom Kippur are chicken, rice and soup dishes. Most families avoid spicy foods. Basmati rice, wild rice, celery root, herbs, garlic, onions, spinach, baby red potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, steamed beets, turnips and squash can be part of this feast.

Traditional break-the-fast foods are often light breakfast foods like eggs, bagels, cream cheese, lox, apples, challah dipped in honey, seasonal fruits and plenty of pastries. Melissa's offers many exotic fruits to create a nice assortment: passion fruit, tropical dragon fruit, tamarillos, pepinos, cherimoyas, pomegranates, persimmons, apple pears and sapotes.
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