rosh hashanah

What Rosh Hashanah Really Means to Me


Rosh Hashanah is a special and most holy day: the birth of a new year. But for my family, while the daily schedule may change by taking more time to figure out what to wear, attending synagogue, eating more (brisket!), and adding honey to every possible food item, I wonder, just how different is it from any other day of the year?

On Rosh Hashanah I will wake up with the same hopes that I wake with every morning: that my daughter is healthy and has a good day; my husband has a productive and good day; and that I manage myself in a healthy way. This daily sequence starts off every day of my life. Whether it’s the start of a new year or just any regular Monday, my hopes and daily goals remain the same.

While I feel a high level of importance to go to synagogue and pray on Rosh Hashanah with kavanah (intention), my personal prayers simply continue. I pray my family and friends will be healthy, safe, and happy, and I pray that my mind will be able to rest from its constant hyper-processing of every moment. I hope the two days of Rosh Hashanah are meaningful for my daughter in whatever way her 6-year-old mind interprets her experience. Similar hopes, just a different context.

But I’ve realized there is something different about these holy days—something that takes me out of the ordinary routine. In the simplest way, it’s all about the honey.

OK, maybe not all, but I’ve found that within the experience of eating honey is a key to that kavanah. The taste of honey sparks something in me due to its intense sweetness. The sharpness as well as its warm flavor feels soothing, and as a result, my senses are more tuned in. I see it, taste it, and feel it. This only fuels my intention and purpose as I think of the meaning of these holy days.

That is why, for me, Rosh Hashanah is not just any ordinary day of the week. My purpose and intention on Rosh Hashanah is to focus on the sweet, both literally and figuratively. The sweet foods are delicious, sure, but focusing on my sweet husband and my sweet daughter as well as the rest of my sweet family and friends is the real focus of the holiday for me.

I think of the coming year and reaffirm my hopes and wishes that I have on any given day. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on a regular Sunday night and ends on a regular Tuesday night, but it has the added bonus of sweet intention and purpose to touch all of our senses.

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Wondering when is Rosh Hashanah 2016? Find out here.

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Risa Sugarman

Risa is mommy to a fabulous 6-year-old girl and wife to an amazing husband. She has lived in Boston, New York City, and now lives in Central CT. She has an MSW from Fordham University and a BA from Columbia University. She was featured in Women's Health Magazine's May 2016 issue regarding mental health and was a panelist on AOL Build discussing the effects of stigma on those with mental illness. She has written for Huffington Post, Psych Central, Keshet, The Mighty, Bring Change 2 Mind and Stigma Fighters and on her own blog,

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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