We learned about Rosh Ha’Shanah this past Sunday, since the Jewish New Year begins this coming Sunday (Oct. 2nd) at sundown. A few fun facts we learned:
- The Jewish year will be 5777.
- Unlike the American New Year, Rosh Ha’Shanah is a time to think about what we have done in the past year that wasn’t so great, and how we can do better in the coming year.
- It is a time to say we are sorry to God, friends and family for our sins – which we defined as behavior we know is not correct, and which we can improve.
- But, Judaism does not expect us to be perfect – our Jewish heritage teaches us to strive to do better, but recognize that people cannot be perfect.
One tradition on Rosh Ha’Shanah that is consistent with these values is called Tashlich. Tashlich involves taking some breadcrumbs to a moving body of water and casting them into the water, symbolically leaving our shortcomings behind us, and giving us a clean slate for the New Year. I think there is some beautiful symbolism in this tradition, which is most often done on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but it can be done anytime up until the last day of Sukkot. Here is a link to a page that I think explains tashlich very nicely, and includes the traditional blessing said when performing this rite: http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/whatistashlich.htm.
So, why the fish activity? Well, first, because the body of water used in tashlich should have fish in it. And secondly, many Ashkenazi Jews (i.e., of Eastern and Central European descent) eat gefilte fish on Rosh Ha’Shanah. There is also a tradition of eating a fish head on Rosh Ha’Shanah so “we should be in the head and not the tail” of life in the coming year. It turns out, gefilte is a Yiddish word for stuffed. Putting together tashlich + gefilte fish + a goal of doing something better next year, I had the students write their own personal message of a behavior or mitzvah they hope to improve in the next year. They then “stuffed” the message into their fish, along with some cotton balls, and voila: the 3rd Grade Rosh Ha’Shanah Gefilte Tashlich Fish Activity!
HOMEWORK: The homework assignments are in the front page of your child’s binder. By way of reminder, please read the chapters on Yom Kippur and Sukkot before our next class, on Oct. 16th.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy New Year,
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