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Rosh Hashanah Mezuzzah Symbolizes New Beginnings

When I think of the High Holidays, many traditional symbols come to mind—

the sound of the shofar, an instrument made of a ram’s horn that signals the awakening of the Jewish people. The short and long blasts of the shofar—tekia, sh’varim, teruah, and tekia gedolah—summon us to come together and renew our relationship with each other, ourselves, and, of course Hashem. Crisp apples dipped in honey tempt our taste buds for a sweet new year, while we try a new fruit to symbolize gratefulness for being alive and allowing us to enjoy all the delicious fruit of the creator. A favorite fruit on this holiday is the pomegranate for its biblical significance—the Land of Israel is known for its pomegranates and is one of the “seven species” for its abundant seeds (613 to be exact) associated with fertility and good deeds, specifically the 613 mitzvot in the Torah. Here’s a good way to seed a pomegrante!

Challah is eaten all year round on Shabbat, but on the High Holidays the braided loaf is made into a round shape that represents the crown of a king for it was on Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of mankind, the sixth day of creation, that Hashem was coronated as King of the Jewish people. Another symbolic ritual during the 10 Days of Awe is tashlich, meaning “casting off” our sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a natural body of flowing water. Beautiful melodic prayers such as the Armaic words of Kol Nidre, meaning “all vows,” and Avenu Malkenu, “Our Father Our King,” stir our emotions as we dig deep into our soul, asking and granting forgiveness of others and ourselves to release burdens we carry and start anew.

This year, for the first time, another Jewish symbol was added to the High Holidays for my family. The mezuzzah that we hung in my son’s new apartment on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah, literally meaning “head of the year,” is a time for new beginnings and so is this transition into his new home. We are commanded to hang a mezuzzah in every Jewish home to bless and protect those who dwell and visit there. The mezuzzah refers to the actual handwritten prayer on parchement paper, called the klaf, that is rolled into a scroll inside the container. The Torah tells us, “And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of our house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy). And inside the instructions are: “You shall love your God, believe only in Him, keep His commandments, and pass all of this on to your children.” The mezuzzah also contains the prayer Shema Yisrael, beginning with the phrase: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

My son’s mezuzzah is especially meaningful because this ornament adorned his home when he lived in Jerusalem last year. He was allowed to take his mezuzzah with him because the new residents who moved in after him had their own mezuzzah they wanted to hang.

Hanging the special mezuzzah in his new home, an artist loft located in a renovated historic building in the heart of the city of St. Louis, not only signifies an important transition in his life and a time to be independent, but also a reminder of a covenant with God. The message of the mezuzzah is the same theme of the High Holidays, to demonstrate our love and commitment and our willingness to create a Jewish household and carry these values into the world around us.

The ritual for affixing a mezuzzah is short and sweet. My son recited the blessing in Hebrew:

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kiddeshanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivvanu likboa mezuzah.

And we all said, Amen. Every time one enters and exits a home with a mezuzzah affixed to the doorpost, it is customary to kiss the mezuzzah with your fingers, as a sign of love and respect. It felt good and right to bless his home with a mezuzzah and do a mitzvah, especially as Rosh Hashanah was fast approaching. Then of course we worked up an appetite and went out for dinner at a neighborhood Thai restaurant.

Go here to enjoy Barbara Streisand singing Avenu Malkenu live in Israel. And may your home and all of Israel be blessed in the coming year. Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tovah!

More on Rosh Hashanah HERE!