Rosh Hashanah and the Andover Pace of Life

Rosh Hashanah resides at the heart of the Jewish high holy season, which culminates in the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur. It is a time of reflection, forgiveness, and celebration. For Jewish students at Andover, it is a time of celebration mingled with stress. As with many non-school related events, observers of the holiday enjoy the festivities, but also it stressful to fit them into the busy PA schedule. Rosh Hashanah follows the Jewish lunar calendar, this year beginning on Monday, October 3rd. From sundown on Monday evening until sundown on Wednesday evening, all orthodox observers refrain from work of any kind. Danielle Rothman ’07 remarked, “Catching up with work is hard, but it depends on your priorities. I don’t view it as a choice. I view it as an obligation.” Jewish Student Union President Joshua Schultz ’06 agreed, “I don’t find it difficult to enjoy the holidays at Andover, but it is not easy to observe them.” Despite these difficulties, Andover students still manage to partake in the observances, particularly the consumption of traditional dishes. Foods such as Challah, Tzimmes, Kugel, and apples with honey are symbolic of the holiday. The Challah, a kind of bread most often formed into braids, is rolled into balls to symbolize the cycle of life. Tzimmes is a sweet meat stew, eaten to symbolize the sweetness of life and hope for a new year. Kugel is a sort of sweet casserole of either potatoes or noodles. Honey and apples, perhaps the most traditional Rosh Hashanah dish, are also consumed to symbolize the sweetness of a new year. Of his favorite food for the holiday, Schultz remarked, “I would have to say that I am a big fan of apples and honey. It is such a simple idea, but the combination is amazing.” In addition to the dietary traditions of Rosh Hashanah, observers also focus on reflection through prayer and forgiveness from those they have wronged over the past year. The entire month before the holiday is spent carrying out these two tasks. Rothman said, “I think the hardest thing is asking for forgiveness from people. It’s not something people are generally comfortable with.” Observers of the holiday also participate in several events aside from prayer and meals. Traditional activities include the blowing of the shofar and the tashlich. Throughout the high holy season, the shofar, a lamb’s horn, is blown. During Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown one hundred times. While this sound has significance pertaining to stories from the Torah, it is often interpreted as a call to repent. During the tashlich, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, observers travel to a moving body of water and cast bread products into the water. The spreading of the bread over the water symbolizes the cleansing of one’s sins. Because Rabbi Kominsky, Andover’s Jewish chaplain, must lead Rosh Hashanah services for his own, non-PA congregation, Andover observers must travel elsewhere to participate in the celebration. However, Rabbi Kominsky helps direct observers to synagogues concurrent with their sect of Judaism. Although the prospect of halting the Andover pace of life for two whole days may seem as incredible as Moses’ parting of the sea, the entire Andover community could use a chance to take some time off, and reflect on life beyond PA.