Rosh Hashanah A Feast for the Senses

by Susan Buchbinder, Director of Religious Life

From the sharp sound of the shofar, to the voices of congregants praying, to the smells and flavors of the delicious foods associated with the celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that activates our senses.

Senses help us preserve memories. We might not remember the details, but we remember the associated feelings. My earliest memories of Rosh Hashanah involve food, of course. Chicken soup and gefilte fish, brisket and tzimmis, honey cake and teiglach on the table, surrounded by family, lots of family. I have vague memories of Rosh Hashanah dinners cooked lovingly by my great-grandmother. You could smell the soup cooking as you entered the apartment building, before you even got up the stairs. By serving traditional holiday meals at CJE residential sites, the hope is that we are helping people bring some of those memories forward.

Another early memory of Rosh Hashanah, for me, was hearing the blowing of the shofar in the synagogue. Even as a young child I remember the deep feeling of awe the shofar blast produced within me.

The shofar serves as a tool of spiritual introspection. It pulls us back to our senses and helps us to focus on repentance and reminds us to mend our ways. For many of the older adults that CJE serves, the sound of the shofar represents a meaningful sensory connection evoking memories of past Rosh Hashanah services. At a time when it may be becoming harder to read the words of the machzor, or follow the service, listening to the shofar and to the voices of a choir, or cantor or the congregation, can make for a fuller spiritual experience.

As preparations are being made for the sounding of the shofar throughout the community, and menus of delightful foods are being planned, the CJE family wishes all of our readers a happy, healthy and sweet New Year 5775!

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of LIFE, CJE SeniorLife's quarterly magazine.