Rituals for the Calendar New Year

Though many Jews celebrate the new year in the autumn at Rosh haShanah, we still feel renewed at this season, when our society celebrates the new year. it is helpful to have a ritual to move through this sacred yet secular time.

Ritual 1:

Doorways are symbols of transition. On New Year's Eve, choose a doorway that will mark your transition. On one side of the doorway, place something that symbolizes the past year. On the other, place something that represents the coming year (you can make art to represent both past and future if you are in the mood to create something). At midnight or at some other time of your choosing, say farewell to the old year, step through the doorway and take up the new year! (See ritual 3 for words to accompany this transition.)

Ritual 2:

This year, the new year falls on Shabbat. As you light the first Shabbat candle, think to yourself or tell a companion all the things you want to let go of from the past year. Imagine these things falling away in the flame of the candle.

As you light the second Shabbat candle, think of those things that have been a source of light to you in the past year that you want to take with you into the new year. Imagine them shining forth through the second Shabbat candle.

Wave your hands over the candle and bring both the cleansing fire and the light of inspiration toward yourself.

Later, when you make kiddush (the sanctification of Shabbat) over a cup of wine, mention yourself or ask others to mention hopes for the new year.

Ritual 3:

If you want to recite a blessing over the transition to the new year, a good one to say is: Baruch meshaneh ha'itim/Blessed is the One who changes the times. This blessing can be recited over champagne!

Rabbi Jill Hammer is the founder of Tel Shemesh and author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.

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