What's Rosh Hashanah?

What's Rosh Hashanah?

How does one celebrate the Jewish New Year?
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At sundown on October 2nd, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year’s Day, began. Here’s a fun fact: “Rosh Hashanah” literally means “head of the year”! This Rosh Hashana was the “head” of year 5777 on the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah, the first of our High Holy Days, commemorates the creation of the world. It’s a time to reflect on the previous year and figure out ways to make the next year even better. This thought process is similar to the resolutions that people make on the secular New Year’s Day in January, but Rosh Hashanah is traditionally full of prayers and religious services instead of parties in Times Square.

But that’s not to say that Rosh Hashanah isn’t a celebratory day! Like other Jewish holidays (except for Yom Kippur, which is a day of fasting), getting together with family for a big feast is also traditional. On Rosh Hashanah, we eat apples dipped in honey to symbolize our hopes for a “sweet” new year. My family also puts extra honey in our challah bread, making an already yummy treat even tastier!

When I was little, I remember my family taking part in another Rosh Hashanah tradition: Tashlikh, or “casting off”. We went to a river and threw small pieces of bread into it, to symbolize “casting off” the past year’s misdeeds and misfortunes.

In the Torah, this holiday is referred to as “Yom Teruah” – “the day of the sounding of the shofar”. A shofar is a kind of trumpet made from a hollowed-out ram’s horn. There are different words for different kinds of notes to play on the shofar, including one long note (tekiah), three shorter notes (shevarim), many quick staccato notes (teruah), and one long loud note that’s held as long as you can blow (tekiah gedolah, literally “the big tekiah”). You can hear a shofar here. The sound of the shofar is meant to draw everyone’s attention and call us to the synagogue. Some say that the sound of the shofar is also a call for repentance, to get us thinking about things we did wrong in the past year. We have ten days to put those thoughts together, because then comes Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement.

The Talmud says that between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, G-d decides which people’s names should be inscribed in the “Book of Life” or the “Book of Death” for the following year, based on past behavior and current repentance. For this reason, a traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah is “L’shana tova tikateyvu” – “May you be inscribed for a good year.” Sometimes we shorten it to “Shana tova,” which simply means “Good year.” This is a little different than wishing someone a “happy” new year like we do on January 1st. We want the year ahead of us to be not superficially happy, but good – full of good deeds and achievements, and of opportunities to fix our past misdeeds.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf.com

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When God Says, “Not Right Now.”

“God give me faith to wait and not manipulate. To trust You fully, no matter how my circumstances may appear." — Lynn Cowell

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One of the most frustrating yet beautiful things is when God tells us “no" or “not right now."

At the time, you may have agony or desperation for this one thing to work out in your life, but it slips away from you. You may ask God why. Why does He want you to be unhappy? Why does He want to take away your dreams?

At the time, you cannot see how much God truly is working in your life, but He is. In my life, every time that I was disappointed that a plan or dream didn't work out, I was devastated. I didn't want to be in a position where I was challenged and tested. I wanted all the blessings to flow and to fulfill what I thought was my plan in life. But that's exactly what it was: my plan.

I did not see at the time that that is not what God intended for me and that He actually had far greater plans than I did for myself. He needed to mold me into who I am supposed to be today. Along the way I have met the most amazing people that have had a huge impact on my life, have gone through the most amazing experiences with God, and I wouldn't trade going through all the trials because it has truly made me into the woman I am today.

“What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for." – John Ortberg

God is continually, endlessly, working in our lives.

We may not see it, but He is. We may blame God for all the things that are going wrong in our lives, but we never see that in the end, we were supposed to go through the low valleys to get to the high, amazing, and beautiful mountains in our lives.

I truly believe that it's when you're at the bottom of the darkest pit in your life that you can actually see the light of God shining brightly upon you. During these times, pray to Him to lead you to understanding that this is all a part of His plan for you.

It hurts God to see that His child is suffering, but in order to carve out just the person that you are supposed to be, you must go through challenges. Where you are today is no accident. God is using the challenge you are in to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants you tomorrow. When it comes to God's plan, timing is absolutely everything.

Looking back on all the events that I had to endure before getting to where I am now, I know that I had to go through the trials in order to be just who I am today, which is happier than I have ever been because I know God and His plan for me. Waiting is the most difficult job of hope, but you must remain faithful and know that God is guiding you.

“When I wait, you strengthen my heart." Psalm 27:14

When you are waiting for God's righteous plan, don't lose faith in His goodness. He only wants the best for you, and in the end, you will look back and see just how much He truly was working in your life. Be patient and the blessings will flow.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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I'm A Christian Who Practices Yoga And That's Okay

Yoga and Jesus: Is it possible?

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I have a confession: I am a Christian who practices yoga daily. I even teach it twice a week. It may not seem like a big deal, but to some, my yoga practice is considered demonic or blasphemous to my faith. I understand why other Christians hold this belief. Yoga is rooted in the Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Christians do not believe in actively practicing any other religion but Christianity, and monotheistic doctrine is 100% scriptural.

But, it is important to remember that in today's Western culture, many of the specifically religious parts of yoga have been stripped to offer a more inclusive approach to the exercises. To be honest, I have never attended a yoga class in which I felt pressured to conform to the ways of another religion. Yoga teachers see the melting pot of races and religions that walk into the studio every day and know that they have to make class inclusive or they won't have any students! I like to compare yoga to the Christmas tree. Christmas trees definitely have pagan origins, but Christians across America put up a Christmas tree to celebrate Jesus' birth. Although we are aware of the original purpose of the tree, we are also aware that such old traditions mean very little to society today. Yoga is a similar situation.

Most Christians who practice yoga know of its origins but also understand that hundreds of years have separated the practice from its original intent.

When I take a yoga class, I have a very specific mindset that I try to enter each time I approach the mat. This has very little to do with "altering my spiritual state." It's more about making sure that I'm getting the most out of each stretch and breath physically so that I am maintaining emotional regulation. All of these benefits, of course, extend to my spiritual life as well. Because my Christian walk is a part of everything I do, Christ has really, truly blessed me in my yoga practice. When I'm going through a flow, I pray, I seek answers, I ask questions. I get to focus on how God holds together all of my operating systems: physical, mental and spiritual.

Yoga is literally medicine. Doctors are starting to prescribe it like a pill. Here are just a few of the countless benefits of having a regular yoga practice:

- increased flexibility

- more effective circulation

- weight loss

- boosts immunity

- better focus

- increased oxygen intake

- sinus relief

- depression/anxiety relief (lots of serotonin!)

- better posture

- natural pain relief (even for menstrual aches and pains!)

- improved metabolism

- lowers blood sugar

- supports connective tissue

-maintains the nervous system

- releases physical and emotional tension

- relieves drug withdrawal symptoms

- prevents loss of bone and cartilage

- increased strength

- relieves insomnia and other sleep problems

For me and millions of others, the amazing benefits of yoga happen not because of calling on any other deity, but because of the strengthening and relaxation that happens when you go through the physical act of yoga. Of course, this physical positivity changes my emotions and spiritual posture with God, but for the better! I walk away physically invigorated, emotionally purged and spiritually more in tune with my Father's voice.

I think that's a really cool thing to experience, but it's not for everyone, and that's okay! If you're a Christian and do not feel inclined to start a yoga practice, that is valid! No true yogi would ever try and force a practice on anyone! But, it's hard to see a lot of my Christian friends bash yoga as "a practice from Hell" or "a way to open up portals" when it's been a Godsend for so many people ailing from things they never thought they would find relief from.

God, through the redemptive grace of Christ, is in the business of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). He can turn ashes into something of magnificent beauty, and I believe He can do it with yoga. Looking back, I can see how God has given me discernment with my practice to know how to worship and serve my God in yoga without compromising my heart in the process. Because of God's clear direction in my life, maintaining my spiritual integrity in yoga has not been hard.

I totally understand that an 800-word article may not change anyone's mind, and that's okay! I just ask everyone who might disagree with me to take into account not only all that I have said, but all that God says in Scripture, and use discernment to make a decision for yourself. I think that's really the heart of yoga today: asking others to consider a different way of observing life while staying completely true to themselves and what they believe.

Blessings.

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