Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

My girls LOVED this activity and learned a lot! I like that this LDS Activity Days idea combines and Old Testament story with learning about fun Jewish traditions.

(A portion of this activity is adapted from a seminary lesson by MarGene Von Forrell and Sharon Prescott Haynie.)

Categories: Learning and Living the Gospel, Developing Talents

Duration: 1 session

Supplies:

  • One “party horn” per girl (the things that make an annoying sound when blown, and the paper unfurls).
  • 1 sheet cardstock per girl
  • Tape
  • Apple slices with honey for dipping
  • Piece of bread
  • A plate for each girl
  • (Optional) Gospel pictures of Abraham and Isaac, and Joseph Smith
  • (Optional) LDS video of the story of Abraham and Isaac or children’s book of this story.
  • (Optional) Things to decorate the cardstock shofars (markers, stickers, etc.)
  • (Optional) Traditional Rosh Hashanah foods to sample and explain. See the very bottom of the post to read what foods I used and the symbolism behind them. I highly recommend doing this if you can! It was my girls’ favorite part.
  • (Optional) Picture of a shofar, and the Angel Moroni.

Preparation: Print copies of the shofar craft, slice the apples, and prepare any other foods you might be using.

make-your-own-shofar

 

 

Activity:

Shofars

1. Explain to your girls that today you will be celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Even though Mormons don’t celebrate this holiday, many of the traditions and symbols of this holiday show up in Mormonism. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of God forgiving our sins, and also a celebration of the creation of the world. So, it is kind of like a birthday party for the world!

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Show them a picture of a ram’s horn shofar and tell them what it is. A shofar is the horn of an animal that can be used like a trumpet. They were used during Old Testament times.

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Ask them if they have ever seen a movie where trumpeters announce the arrival of a king or queen. The shofar is blown like a trumpet on Rosh Hashanah to announce the King of Kings. Ask “who is the King of Kings?” (Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings, but in Jeiwsh culture it simply means “God.”)

Ask if a trumpet is ever used as a symbol in Mormonism. (Answer: the trumpet of the Angel Moroni on temples.)

moroni2

2. Spend about 15 minutes making paper shofars using this template. Have them decorate just the end part that won’t be wrapped around the party horn. Cut off the part of the party horn that unfurls, and then wrap one end of the shofar around the party horn and use tape to secure it in place. The instructions say to use double sided tape on the decorated end, but we just used regular tape and it worked fine.

3. Now it is time to try the shofars! Here is a part of the Rosh Hashanah ceremony as described in the January 2000 Ensign. I read the quote to them, explained it  in more age appropriate terms, and then we blew our horns together in the manner described.

“First, God offers hope, symbolically demonstrated by a long, lengthy note. Then man’s weeping for his transgressions with a desire to forsake them is manifested by a series of short notes. Finally, God’s forgiveness to those truly repentant is represented by another long note. What beautiful symbolism for us to be aware of!”

4. Explain that Rosh Hashanah is also called the “Feast of the Trumpets” because the trumpet or Shofar is blown 100 times. So, while we will be blowing our shofars a lot this evening, you must vow to ONLY blow them when instructed to.

 

Story of Abraham and Isaac

1. (Blow shofars together) Explain that Jewish people believe in the Old Testament just like we do, so a lot of the scripture stories they tell at church are the same stories we tell. The story that is most often told on Rosh Hashanah is the story about Abraham and Isaac.

2. Play the LDS video of Abraham and Isaac, or read a children’s story version. I read them this children’s book, or here is a children’s story version online.

abraham-and-isaac-39463-gallery

3. (Blow shofars together) Ask the girls how this story might be related to the shofars we have been blowing. (Answer: the ram that was used as the sacrifice at the end of the story has horns that could be used as a shofar.) Remind them that the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a symbol of the trumpets that announce the coming of the King of Kings. But, the shofar is ALSO a symbol that reminds us of the story of Abraham and Isaac! The rams horn reminds us of the sacrifice that Abraham made to God.

 

Unetannah Tokef

1. (Blow shofars) Remind them that part of the reason Rosh Hashanah is to celebrate God forgiving our sins. There is a special prayer that is given at church on Rosh Hashanah that has been read by Jewish leaders for more than 800 years! Here is a part of that prayer. (I explained its meaning after we read it.)

“And a great shofar is blown, and a silent whisper is heard…And all earthly beings pass before You like sheep. Just as a shepherd counts his flock, so will You count every living being and assign a judgement for all.”

And repentance and prayer and charity cancel the harsh decree.

 

The Feast

1. (Blow shofar) After church, people leave the synagogue (the name of a Jewish church building), saying to each other: “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.” Have each girl say “may you be inscribed in the Book of Life” to the people next to them.

2. Explain that families then gather for the holiday meal, festive, but also reverent, kind of like the feeling you might get at a Ward Christmas Party. Usually on the first night of Rosh Hashana, the meal begins with apple dipped in honey to represent a sweet year.

3. Eat the apples dipped in honey and say this prayer together (traditionally said in Hebrew):

“We bless you Eternal God Sovereign of the World who created the fruit of the tree. May it be your will Eternal God that we are renewed for a year that is good and sweet.”

4. At this point if you decided to gather some other Rosh Hoshanah foods, you can sample those and talk about the symbolism of those. (See the very bottom of the post to read what foods I used and the symbolism behind them.)

 

The Bread

1. (Blow shofar)  Tell the kids that after the afternoon meal on the first day of Rosh Hashana, the community might gather by a riverside, to symbolically throw its sins into the river using little pieces of bread.

We (Mormons) do not have this in our story of Abraham, but in the Jewish story of Abraham, Satan created a river along the path to prevent Abraham from fulfilling God’s wish of sacrificing Isaac. Abraham tried to cross the river and continued in until it reached his neck. Then, Abraham prayed to God for help, and God dried up the river so he and Isaac could cross it.

2. Split up the bread and have each girl silently think of some sins that they would want to cast into the river. You can also talk about the symbolism of bread in Christian/Mormon culture and what the bread of the sacrament has to do with sin.

 

Closing Thoughts

1. (Blow shofar) On September 22, 1827, the day that Angel Moroni came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and gave him the gold plates. September 22, happened to fall on Rosh Hashana. From the January 2000 Ensign:

“The golden plates were delivered to the young Prophet Joseph Smith early in the morning of 22 September 1827 [during Rosh Hashanah!]. Was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on the Feast of Trumpets coincidental? Latter-day Saints who know about these events do not think so.”

Explain to the girls that Mormons believe the unearthing of the Book of Mormon to signal the “last dispensation of the Earth,” meaning the last period of time before Jesus Christ comes again. In the Bible (Book of Revelations) it says that trumpets will sound to bring forth the last dispensation. Well, the Book of Mormon was unearthed during Rosh Hashanah, when all of the Jewish congregations are blowing their trumpets! Isn’t that cool?

2. (Blow shofar) Wish the girls a Happy Rosh Hashana. Instruct the girls as they leave to tell everyone, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.”

 

The Rosh Hashanah Foods I Used:

Apples – Represents the apples in the Garden of Eden, but also the sweetness symbolizes our wishes to have a good and sweet New Year.

Honey – The sweetness of the apples and honey together symbolizes our wishes to have an EXTRA good and sweet New Year. Most foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah are sweet foods. It’s also a food mentioned many times in the Bible.

Pomegranate – one of the few foods mentioned by name in the scriptures, the many seeds represent the hope that our year will be full of abundance.

Carrot – Gezer, the Hebrew word for carrot, sounds very much like g’zar, the Hebrew word for decree. Eating them on Rosh Hashana expresses the desire that any evil decree against us will be torn up and that we will all focus on our good merits instead.

Borscht (I bought some pre-made in the Kosher section of the grocery store) – Borscht is primarily made from beets. The Jewish word for beets in “silka,” which sounds a lot like “siluk,” which means “removal.” Eating beets helps to remind us to remove any spiritual roadblocks that might stand between us and God.

Gefilte Fish (I bought some pre-made in the Kosher section of the grocery store) – Fish are always vigilant. They never sleep. They are always watchfully swimming. We should be like fish in this way, constantly watchful for opportunities to serve God.

Matzo Ball Soup  (I bought some pre-made in the Kosher section of the grocery store) – Also eaten at Passover, Matzo balls are balls of bread crumbs from unleavened bread (that means bread made without yeast). This is the type of bread that the Jews ate when fleeing from Egypt. (It’s called Manna in our scriptures) To us Mormons unleavened bread also symbolizes the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ).

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