Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rosh haShana: The pre meal Seder

During the two nights of Rosh haShana we celebrate a 'Seder'. Unlike the Pesach Seder, which involves the performance of several Mitzvot (commandments) the Rosh haShana Seder is a Minhag (tradition). The purpose of this Seder is to wish each other, ourselves and the Jewish people a good new year.

The main blessing we wish for is peace. That is why the motif of 'save us', 'protect us' from our enemies, is said once and again.

Following an ancient custom, we associate the names of foods or fruits we eat, with a key Hebrew word which alludes to each blessing. For example, when we eat dates (in Hebrew temarim) we ask haShem to make all our enemies disappear (in Hebrewitamu). Notice, the Hebrew words for "dates" and "disappear" share the root T / M.

We also wish each other to have a year of blessings (may we have as many merits as the pomegranate's seeds; may we multiply like fish); goodness and sweetness (apple with honey).

One of the blessings comes directly from the Torah, (ki tabo): "shenihie lerosh velo lezanav," "May HaShem help us to be at the head (top of our potential as individuals and as a nation) and not at the tail (bottom)."

Similar to Pesach, this Seder takes place after the Kiddush and before the formal meal.  

Some families say this Seder before, and some families after hamotzi. In our community, both traditions are acceptable.