Sunday, August 29, 2010

Indian Jews Greet the New Year

Let’s travel to Calcutta – a bustling port city in India where 5,000 Jews once lived. Today the community numbers in the tens, but their traditions are still carried out by descendants living across the globe. Custom had it that on Rosh Hashana, Jews hosted each other for an afternoon reading of the Book of Psalms together with a light meal of fruit and sweets. A collection of 150 psalms, this is the longest book in the Bible and a good starting point for the self reflection that Rosh Hashana is all about. As for the traditional Rosh Hashana greeting – the Jews of Calcutta focused on longevity. Tizku L’Shanim Rabot – May You Merit a Long Life – is the Calcutta Rosh Hashana salutation answered by Tizke V’Tehiyeh – May You Merit and May You Live.

How to apply this to the classroom? A mini-feast of sweets and fruits is easy to put together and perfect for the Rosh Hashana wish of a sweet year. Next, have each student write his/her own 2-line psalm around a theme found in the Book of Psalms, such as creation, wisdom, justice, war, peace, etc. Discuss why each of their psalms is appropriate for Rosh Hashana. Follow this by a “parade” of traditional Rosh Hashana greetings. Let each student pick the greeting of his/her choice and explain why. Here are some sample greetings:
· Shana Tova – A good year
· Shana Tova Umetukah – A good and sweet year
· Ketiva ve-chatima tovah – May you be written and sealed for a good year [in the Book of Life]

My greeting to you: Shana Tova Umetukah Ve Harbei Bri'ut – a good year, a sweet year and a year full of good health.

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