The Jewish New Year and Navratri – By Esther David

As the new moon rises in the sky and Gujarat prepares for Navratri, the small Jewish community of Ahmedabad welcomes their New Year or Rosh Hashanah, as they remember the Genesis. Besides that, it is also the beginning of the ten days of penitence. For the New Year, apples dipped in honey are offered to sweeten the year. A day before, the New Year, the Bene Israel Jews of western India, make a sweet known as `Chik cha Halwa’. This rather rubbery sweet is made with coconut milk, wheat extract and sugar. It is cut into diamond shapes and decorated with nuts and rose-petals. This delicious pink `halwa’ captures the true essence of Indian Jewish cuisine.

new-yearJews celebrate their New Year by blowing the Shofar or Ram’s horn in Synagogues all over the world, to welcome the New Year, leading towards the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. These are also days of self-examination, when prayers are said to seek forgiveness from God; for wrongs done during the year, which is followed by Succoth or the feast of tabernacles, observed by dwelling in tents at the Synagogue. It is symbolic of the forty years of wandering, before the Jews returned to Israel.

And, as it often happens, according to the lunar calendar, Indian and Jewish festivals are often celebrated together. So, as Ahmedabad, reverberates with drum-beats and raas-garba of Navratri, mingling with the Hebrew chants of the Jewish New Year emitting from the Synagogue, where the eternal light spreads an aura around us. Around the same time, for Navratri; a clay lamp is lit and placed in the garbo, a perforated clay pot and both become symbolic of the universe, spreading a message of peace and harmony.

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