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Rosh Hashanah 5781 – a Celebration of Beginnings…Endings…& All the Life in Between

…Where have we come from?

……Where are we now?

………Where are we going?

This post is a celebration of a feast that I didn’t know much about. I’ve have been blessed by learning just a jot and tittle about its tradition. Very simply, Rosh Hashanah is a l’chaim event – a celebration of life – just as it comes to us – joys and sorrows, births and deaths, beginnings and endings. The post features performers when they were young and older and contains songs from a variety of musical genres. I hope you enjoy this celebration of life.

I’m grateful to the Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton , MA for their Rosh Hashanah webpage that helped me begin my education about this important celebration. Their name means “seekers of justice” – how appropriate for times such as these!

For more info see their About page. You can download this year’s service brochure here. There's a playlist of all songs in this post at the end.

First Day of Rosh Hashanah Saturday, September 19

Morning Songs and Blessings

--Singing in NYC in 2012 at age 93, Pete on his 12-string shares for the first time 5 new verses that were written by his wife for their young children.

--A commenter said, “My heart still aches when I listen to this song. It was my lullaby as a child. Thanks mom for making sure I turned into the best man I could be.”

“The wheel is turning and you can't slow down

You can't let go and you can't hold on

You can't go back and you can't stand still

If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will”

“Small wheel turning by the fire and rod

Big wheel turning by the grace of God

Every time that wheel turn 'round

Bound to cover just a little more ground”

--This great gospel song was mentioned on a website I often use when researching Dead songs: (page dedicated to “The Wheel” - above)

Shacharit Service

--Includes “Unetaneh Tokef.” The original version has a lot of frightening judgment imagery. Please take time to read this rabbi’s reflections on this prayer in the light of the pandemic (at the above link). I personally resonate with his perspective on the loving nature of G-d and the flexibility he offers us in how we might want to include or exclude it. At the end of the post, I’ve included a version of the prayer he wrote just for our times. Be blessed by it!

The traditional prayer (which echoes Christian Ash Wednesday prayers) ends with: “We come from dust, and return to dust. We labour by our lives for bread, we are like broken shards, like dry grass, and like a withered flower; like a passing shadow and a vanishing cloud, like a breeze that passes, like dust that scatters, like a fleeting dream. But You are the king who lives eternal.” There’s a link to the full prayer at the above link.

Torah Service & Closing Prayers

--Includes readings from Genesis…so…

Man Gave Names to All the Animals – Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) Live in Munich 1991

Remembering those who’ve moved on

--“This is the original video shared two days after the passing of my Grandfather, John Pagliaro. This melody was written for him.”

--"’According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah, which began tonight, is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness,’ Franklin tweeted soon after the news of Ginsburg's death broke.”

“NPR reporter Nina Totenberg explained the tradition on Twitter: ‘A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment bc they were needed most & were the most righteous.’"

“It's not the only point of significance. Because Ginsburg died Friday evening, her death occurred around the time Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, began.”

“’If one dies on any Shabbat they are considered a Tzadik … more so when it’s on the new year,’” Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet synagogue in Evanston, Illinois told USA TODAY.”

Remembering George Harrison (on Vimeo - so not in the playlist at the end of this post

--see end of post for two Rollingstone articles


Kiddush (Kurt Weill) - Cantor Azi Schwartz @ NYC’s Park Avenue Synagogue

-- End of service blessing over the wine.

--Term is also used for the after service schmoozing over a light snack.

Parallel Service for Children

For older children

--“A video I made for my World Geography Class project using the song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is A Season)’ by the Byrds.”

--a student-created video – They are our hope for a peace-filled future…

For younger children

--watch with your children – lots of live animals

--A robotic celebration created by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Second Day of Rosh Hashanah Sunday, September 20

Tashlich & Shofar Service

These creative ceremonies will feature an opportunity to cast off the obstacles that get in the way of our becoming who we want to be (either at an outdoor body of water or at home via Zoom), and the blowing of the shofar!

“Tashlich (תשליך) is a ritual that many Jews observe during Rosh Hashanah. Tashlich means ‘casting off’ in Hebrew and involves symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water. Just as the water carries away the bits of bread, so too are sins symbolically carried away. Since Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, in this way the participant hopes to start the new year with a clean slate.”

Rosh Hashanah Rhythm Section

--“Each shofar plays only one note and that note is made up of what is inside you.”

--Reminds me of when my son John was young and battled his cousins Michael and Glenn with light sabers

--very funny & in good taste (apples & honey – of course!)

For Further Enrichment…

An Alternate Unetaneh Tokef

by Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler the spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Sharon, MA.

On Rosh HaShanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

That this year people will live and die,

some more gently than others

and nothing lives forever.

But amidst overwhelming forces

of nature and humankind,

we still write our own Book of Life,

and our actions are the words in it,

and the stages of our lives are the chapters,

and nothing goes unrecorded, ever.

Every deed counts.

Everything you do matters.

And we never know what act or word

will leave an impression or tip the scale.

So if not now, then when?

For the things we can change, there is t’shuvah, realignment,

For the things we cannot change, there is t’filah, prayer,

For the help we can give, there is tzedakah, justice.

Together, let us write a beautiful Book of Life

for the Holy One to read.

--American folk legend donates part of royalties from 'Turn, Turn, Turn' to 'place where the words originated.'

--In the 1960s, Israel's daily papers used to publish Pete Seeger's song lyrics, such was his popularity; the relationship became more complicated, but he never stopped urging us to keep trying for peace.

Tashlich Yoga - A new you in the new year

--“Each year for Rosh Hashanah day two, the Asmans write their own service, complete with activities like yoga and tashlich on the beach.”

Origins…Genesis…”in the beginning a long time ago” (Dylan)…

– used as intro to DC Comics’ “Watchmen” movie

More Prayers for Shalom in our Times

--from the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 2. This song was suggested by the Rosh Hashanah service brochure I cited at the beginning.

Imagine Peace

75th Birthday memorial in NYC's Central Park's Strawberry Fields

Our Mission: Mitzvot - Go forth to love and serve one another…

Mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) connect us to G-d, to our deepest self, to one another, and to all of creation. These acts transform the world around us.

“The Kabbalists (Jewish mystical tradition) of 16th-century Tzfat, particularly Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (“the Ari”), provided a cosmic healing model for the mitzvot. Mitzvot are devices that reach under the hood of the cosmos to repair it, reorganizing it into a harmonious state that is capable of receiving boundless G‑dly light. Ultimately, then, it is our mitzvot that are responsible for preparing the world for the messianic era, a time when it will be possible to do all the mitzvot fully, in their ideal context, and the world will be filled with G‑dly light “as the waters cover the ocean basin.” Source

“How many roads must a man walk down…”

FYI - There are 613 mitzvot...

Shalom, tOM


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