Here's wishing a happy and blessed Rosh Hashanah to those who celebrate the holiday. I was not raised in the faith associated with this day, so I confess that I do not even know if this is a proper salutation for whose who do honor it. While I have friends and colleagues who celebrate it, and who have shared a lot of information about Rosh Hashanah with me, most of my knowledge regarding its meaning, its religious significance, traditions and foods associated with it have come from, odd as it may seem, my parish priest, and, of course, the Internet. This is somewhat sad since I have "prominent" Jewish ancestors, from which I was taught nothing about observances or customs, because I did not even know of any of my Jewish roots until I was in my mid to late thirties. As a matter of fact, this aspect of my family history was only brought to my attention because of my keen interest in reading and writing.
It was my paternal aunt (who was my father's sister) Evelyn, that knew how much I wanted to work as a writer for a living, who finally told me about a couple of my ancestors' endeavors as writers. I use the word "finally" because, even though I had had correspondence with Evelyn since I was a young child, it was not until I was in my mid-thirties that she told me about one of the writers in "the family", her uncle and my great uncle David Loth, an author of books and a well respected news reporter, and someone that I referred to in a post at the onset of this blog which you may refer to by clicking here.
David was in his eighties when I met him, and, unfortunately, I was put in a compromising position by his nephew as well as David himself so, needless to say, I did not explore my family history with him. I never spoke to Evelyn about what happened with both David or Nicholas his nephew, but, some years later, she told me about her great grandmother, Rosa Fassel Sonnenschein (who would have been David's grandmother, making Rosa Fassel Sonnenschein my great great grandmother).
Rosa's role in history is that she is famous for starting the first Jewish newspaper for women and was known as the "flamboyant editor and publisher of The American Jewess, the first (1895) independent American Jewish magazine, published by a woman" and dedicated to issues concerning women. This is a fact that I mentioned in a previous post at the onset of this blog in an entry which you may refer to by clicking here. The aforementioned post does not concern itself with how my ancestors celebrated any of the Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, or any family rituals because I have no idea how they observed them, or if they observed them, which I assume they did since Rosa's father was a rabbi, and she ultimately married (and later divorced) one.
In any event, I know nothing about these roots other than what I have stated here; however, I do have some letters, journals and photographs that I was given when Evelyn died in 2009, and I had hoped to go through them at some point. Going through letters and photographs of course is not the same as having been told stories while being in the company of your parents or grandparents; however, anybody who could tell me about my ancestors has died, with the exception of my father's brother, who most certainly would have some memory of them, but I have only met him on two occasions, once when I was ten, and once when I was in my thirties, and on both occasions he probably said five or six words — at the most — to me.
In my family, children were seen and not heard and nor allowed to question anything so I am not so sure if I had any inkling that I would have been permitted to ask anything when I grew up. Why this history was kept from my family is something I always thought that I'd have to live with, but, thanks to an incident which occurred a little over a year ago, I may not have to go the deciphering family history route alone.
Here's is what happened, a little over a year ago, in the spring of 2010, when I was searching around for information about Rosa Fassel Sonnenschein: I came across a comment that someone had made on a web-site, Jewish Women's Archive, which read:
Meanwhile, I was informed that apples, with honey, are consumed during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing a sweet year. Hence, I took the opportunity to learn some more things about the role of bees (since they are the ones that make honey, and since they have recently been "visiting" me in my terrace garden indicated in the images of them enjoying my Hyssop in the images included in today's entry and ones that can be found on Flickr, in a set titled "the HYSSOP and the BEE", as well as in a recent post which you may refer to by clicking here. Additionally bees were included in another entry that I made this past summer where they can be seen enjoying my Echinacea, and this entry may be found by clicking here.
As for the bees' role in Rosh Hashanah, what I have discovered from Hands on Jewish Holidays, is this: "Even though honeybees are non-kosher insects, the honey they produce was judged to be kosher. The “Ask the Rabbi”, the Mishna in tractate Bechoot states: 'Why did they say that bee-honey is permitted? Because even though they bring it into their bodies, it is not a ‘product’ of their bodies [it is stored there but not produced there].' If you'd like to read more about this, please click here. in Tractate Bechorot states: 'That which comes from something which is [non-Kosher or ritually impure] is , and that which comes of that which is [Kosher or ritually pure] is .' Thus, the general rule is that the product of a non-Kosher animal is not kosher. However honey is kosher because bees merely process the nectar; it is not an excretion that originates from them. According to
However, in the interim, dear reader, I wish you a sweet year, as well as the opportunity to learn "first hand" the stories of your ancestors, if this is indeed the desire of your heart.