It's a little hard to believe this is our second Rosh Hashanah here, and that, last year at this time (on the Hebrew calendar, anyway), our lift hadn't even arrived. Last year I was making meals with two knives and two pots and this year we'll have a full table and I'm making my first-ever brisket (we're hosting a bunch of yeshiva guys for one of the dinners. After a meal last year where a yeshiva guy almost cried that we were having salmon as the main dish, I now only serve fleishigs when hosting young men. They don't know enough about my love of all things vegetarian to know how lucky they are ["Main course of breaded tofu, anyone? Anyone?!?!"].
It is beyond lovely to be in a place where Rosh Hashanah is such a big deal. The malls, schools, doctors offices and stores are all decorated with things like paper apples and fake pomegranates, everyone (including store cashiers) is wishing each other a Shana Tova (a good new year) and kativa v'chatima tova (may you be written and signed for a good year) and Ilana and I both came home from school/ulpan with candies from classmates to wish us a sweet New Year.
People are in overdrive buying and making simanim foods (one clever supermarket even posted a sign by each one of these special foods that are eaten on Rosh Hashanah. This way, shoppers just had to go down the produce aisle saying, "ohh, right--I forgot to get the leeks." [Karsi in Hebrew sounds like the word kares which means to destroy, so there is a custom to say "May it be your will, Hashem, that our enemies are destroyed"]. Simanim have become almost a trend now, with one popular blogger posting her Rosh Hashanah Tapas Simanim meal. We are sharing a meal tonight with our friends the O's, who made aliyah this summer from Sharon, MA. I've suggested that everyone try to bring their own siman. As we are big into puns around here, we're having fun planning on what to bring. Chana seems able to make anything into a siman: "I'd like to make chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I can say that we should always be chipper and never be late. Choco-late". I found a recipe for Harvard beets so that we can beat back our enemies and be really smart while doing it)
All of the houseware stores are having huge sales (bigger around Pesach, but still pretty big now). The appliance stores are also in overdrive. Thinking about that more, I think it's a confluence of the holiday being right after tons of new olim arrive so, for many reasons, it's a good time for stores to have a sale.
Rosh Hashanah is the only guaranteed two-day yontif on the Israeli calendar. You should see the worry people have about buying enough food/cooking for a a two day holiday. I only hope that, by next Rosh Hashanah, we will be in a new house that has space for a second freezer and/or fridge, since the space issue of hosting people with only one fridge has been a big challenge (I wonder many times a day how my grandmothers and great-grandmothers did it). Shalom Shachne and I went grocery shopping last night after Shabbos ended because there was just no fridge space before Shabbos. This meant that we had to wait until the store actually opened after Shabbos ended and then wait in a long check-out line at 11 pm because we were, not surprisingly, not the only ones who knew that the lines this morning would be twice as long as last night!
The spiritual aspects of the end of one year/beginning of another one are being heavily focused on, which I love. I went to a shiur last Shabbos (my neighborhood has a weekly class that is given by different women who live here) and the speaker noted that this is the last week of the year and how hard we should work to make each day the best it can be, since each day "done right" can make up for less-than-stellar ones that happened throughout the year. The Rabbi at shul yesterday took a moment before mussaf started to remind us that we were about to daven the last mussaf of the year, and make it count. Intense. I always spend part of Shabbos afternoon saying tehillim so, in this spirit, I said extra yesterday. I was about to stop when I said, "oh, why not--just one more. I'll open randomly" and opened to.....number 119, which is the longest one of all (celestial joke!). I made it through and was only five minutes late for the shiur :).
May we all be entering a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year!