Experiencing High Holiday Rituals Through the Five Senses

Filled with sensory experiences, the High Holidays and the Festival of Sukkot are opportunities to create meaningful connections to Israel. The sounds of shofar blasts, the smells of holidays meals, the knocking of wood that echoes across Israel as families build their sukkot – these expressions of rituals and values can bring an authentic part of Israel into our learning and experiences.

SENSORY EXPERIENCES THAT INVITE REFLECTION

This time of year offers the opportunity to reflect inward. We take stock of the past year and look forward to the next year. Below are examples of how sensory experiences provide opportunities for reflection and introspection through holiday rituals and Israel.

Shehechiyanu: Appreciating the New

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, we taste, smell and touch a new fruit – ideally one we’ve never encountered, or at least one we have not yet had this season. This lesser known tradition invites us to give blessing to that which is new, and appreciate meaningful opportunities and challenges in our lives and the lives of those we care for.

See the clip from Shalom Sesame below, and explore more High Holiday resources on the Shalom Sesame website!

Honey: Adding Sweetness To Our Lives

Israel is known for delicious apples and its biblical promise of being a land of milk and honey. It is not surprising that we start the Jewish year with the promise of sweetness as we dip apples into honey. By doing so, we embody the Rosh Hashanah greeting of Shanah Tovah u'Metukah – sharing with one another a blessing for a sweet New Year. This is yet another example of how sensory immersion invites opportunity for personal and communal reflection.

CHECK OUT THESE LINKS FOR MORE SENSORY EXPERIENCES

SENSORY EXPERIENCES THAT ENHANCE COMMUNITY

he shofar is a ritual object that symbolizes a number of things to many on the holidays. Its sounds awaken our senses and call for a transition from personal to collective. Many of us may be sitting in synagogues engaged in communal introspection, and others may be participating in their own expression of communal cheshbon nefesh (חשבון נפש, “soul searching”), for example walking through the silent streets and highways of Israel.

Echoes of a Shofar

The inspiring story of the teenagers who defiantly blew the shofar on Yom Kippur in pre-State Israel is told in Echoes of a Shofar, the first installment in the “Eyewitness 1948” short film series produced by Toldot Yisrael and The History Channel.

 

A Communal Experience Under the Stars

Just as Yom Kippur ends, the sounds of banging hammers immediately begin throughout Israel – it's time for Sukkot! Sukkot is replete with opportunities to engage in ritual practices enhanced by sensory experience. 

The Five Senses of Sukkot

Ushpizin – Hospitality on Sukkot

Building, Storytelling and Sukkot

Uzi Eli: The Etrog Man

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What types of tastes, smells, and sounds inspire your thoughts, feelings, and actions during the High Holidays?

2. Recall an Israel experience: what do you see? feel? smell? hear? Which of your senses are immersed in the experience?

3. What do you see or hear in North America that you do not see or hear in Israel? What do you smell or feel in Israel that you don’t smell or feel in Israel? In short – how do we sense differently in each of our homes?

 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Reflection

  • Since last Rosh Hashanah, what’s something you did really well?
  • What do you hope to accomplish this coming year?
  • Create a blessing for your friends and family for the new year.
 
Blind Taste Test
Bring in special foods for a tasting! Holiday foods might include: black eyed peas, gourds, dates, beets, fish, honey, pomegranate seeds, etc. Can even do a blind taste testing to generate extra layer of excitement. Also,this activity can be replicated through the other senses, like a blind touch test)

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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