Many Jewish holidays and traditions center around the ritual of a shared meal. Nourishing ourselves in community, representing persistence in the face of persecution. This year, the High Holy Days—the most sacred days of the Jewish calendar—will be different. Most of us won’t be passing plates of sliced apples and dishes of honey around dinner tables, indulging in the warmth of a loved one’s home, or hosting others in our own.
To me, there is power in honoring the rituals we do have access to, global pandemic or not. We can still take comfort in nourishing ourselves and anyone we’re cohabitating with, taking cues from seasonal transition and deeply rooted tradition.
Of course, you don’t need to be Jewish, or have historically engaged with Jewish traditions to enjoy an intentional meal this fall. Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Hebrew lunar calendar. It marks a new beginning, an opportunity for introspection and discovery. Depending on where you are in the world, temperatures may be cooling, days shortening, inviting you to turn inward and set intentions for the months ahead. Traditional Rosh Hashanah delicacies include the aforementioned apples dipped in honey, sweet stews, and golden round challahs to call in sweetness for the new year. Whether it’s drizzling a nice fuji with your sweetener of choice, pulling a dessert recipe from your family’s archive, or taking on a baking project you’ve been eyeing on Instagram, I invite you to make a ritual of enjoying something sweet, whatever that means to you.
Yom Kippur translates to ‘day of atonement’. We are asked to reflect on the past year and consider how we might be kinder to ourselves, each other, and the planet as we move into the next. Traditionally, Jewish people observe a 24 hour fast as a symbol of focus on the inner work at hand, and to re-experience the privilege of our daily norms once they resume. There are countless reasons why fasting might not be a healthy choice for you, so whether you fast or not, try taking a day to meditate gently on self-reflection. And after you do, make sure to enjoy a meal, a dish, a beverage, or a self-care ritual that feels celebratory.
Sukkot is my personal favorite of the Jewish holidays (or maybe it’s Passover…). It’s an eight-day harvest celebration, during which we are asked to eat our meals in temporary outdoor structures that we build and decorate with gourds and branches—basically mandated backyard camping. One of the requirements of this structure, or sukkah, is that when you look up you must be able to see the stars. Appreciation for Mother Earth and the intense transition she’s experiencing this time of year is woven into every aspect of the holiday. If it’s accessible to you, I highly recommend enjoying a cozy meal outdoors as late fall approaches, ideally with a view of the stars.