It feels like every year, the High Holidays sneak up on us, and we end up scrambling to make sure everything is ready to celebrate the Jewish New Year.
In 2021, Elul starts on Sunday, August 8 at sundown. Rosh Hashanah 2021 will begin at sundown on Monday, September 6. We want to make sure you don’t get caught off-guard this year, so we have created this High Holiday Prep Checklist for you to use so you get everything done in time.
You can view it here on this webpage, and you can also download this PDF version. By downloading the PDF, you can email it to friends or print it out and check tasks off as you go.
Shana tova from Jerusalem, and best of luck preparing for a meaningful High Holiday season!
Step 1: Preparing for Elul
Elul is the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah. The main custom during Elul is hearing the shofar each morning, except on Shabbat. Many people will go to morning prayers at their synagogue to hear the shofar, while others prefer to do it themselves at home for themselves and their family. The blast of the shofar is meant to wake us up and prepare us for the approaching holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. You can learn more about the history, origins, and meaning of the shofar and its blasts here.
- Do you own a shofar? (If not, shop kosher shofars from Israel here!)
- Do you know how to pick out the right shofar? (If not, use this guide!)
- Is your synagogue or local community in need of a shofar? If you are financially able, consider donating a shofar if your community is in need.
- Have you secured tickets to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at your local synagogue of choice?
- Do you want to do any sort of spiritual preparation during Elul, through journaling, reading, or prayer? If so, find what is best for you and be ready to start on August 8!
- Do you have a machzor ready for Rosh Hashanah services?
- If it is your custom, do you plan to visit the graves of any departed loved ones?
Step 2: Rosh Hashanah Shopping
Like we mentioned before, Rosh Hashanah 2021 begins at sundown on September 6. However, many stores will sell out of what you need if you wait until the last minute; plus, if getting your Judaica and holiday gifts from Israel is important to you, then it’s extra crucial to shop early and account for shipping times.
Each community and family has its own norms for gift-giving during Rosh Hashanah. Here is a list of people you may be shopping for:
- Your parents, siblings, and grandparents
- Your aunts, uncles, and cousins
- Your nieces and nephews
- Your grandchildren
- Your friends and their families
- Educators and leaders within your Jewish community
- Day school or Hebrew school teachers
- Any friends or family who are newlywed or recently moved in together and are still building their Judaica collection
- Host and hostess gifts (if you’re being hosted for Rosh Hashanah meals)
Gifts Ideas from Israel that are perfect for anyone
- Israeli honey
- Israeli date honey
- Israeli wine
- Israeli tea
- Pomegranate jewelry
- Gift Baskets – featuring Israeli delicacies such as olive oil, honey, spices, tahini, halva, and more!
Rosh Hashanah Gifts for College Students or Young Adults
If you have a child who has flown from the nest and is away at college or will be spending the High Holidays in their own apartment far from home, you can make sure they have the essentials for a sweet new year.
Israel’s favorite designers often make Rosh Hashanah kits with challah covers, candleholders, honey dishes, and more, such as this Dorit Judaica gift set, this pomegranate-themed set, this colorful floral set, and this Jerusalem-themed set.
Rosh Hashanah Gifts for Kids
While Rosh Hashanah presents may not be as common as Hanukkah presents, our shop has several kid-friendly gifts, such as Hebrew name jewelry, build-your-own-temple kits, and card games that help bring Jewish history and heritage to life for the little ones.
- If you are being hosted for meals, do you have something to bring along as a “thank you”?
- Do you know who you need to shop for?
- Do you have a budget and/or know how much you want to spend on each gift?
- If you are buying gifts made in Israel, are you ordering ahead of time to ensure they arrive on time?
- Do you send Shana Tova cards each year? If so, have you ordered them?
3. Hosting Essentials for Rosh Hashanah
If you are hosting dinner or lunch on Rosh Hashanah, or break-fast after Yom Kippur, it’s important to plan and stay organized so nothing falls through the cracks and you aren’t scrambling at the last moment for more honey or to find a recipe for a vegan kosher dessert to serve after a meat meal.
Not only is there food to cook and serve: there is the table to beautify with gorgeous made-in-Israel serving bowls, honey dishes, and challah boards. There are also certain ritual items required for several rituals performed and brachot made during the holidays, like Kiddush, hand-washing, and hamotzi.
Here are some examples of essentials that every host should have at their table:
- Challah boards, covers, and knives
- Honey dishes
- Tablecloths and table runners
- Aprons and hand towels
- Kiddush cups
- Other assorted tableware
- Have you invited your guests and inquired about allergies/dietary restrictions?
- Have you planned your menu(s)?
- Have you made a grocery list?
- Is your Rosh Hashanah tableware in good shape? Does anything need to washed or replaced?
- Do you have a Kiddush cup for Kiddush during Rosh Hashanah?
- Do you have a challah board and cover for hamotzi during Rosh Hashanah?
- Do you have candlesticks for lighting holiday candles?
4. Brush up on your High Holiday knowledge
Your holiday will be extra meaningful if you understand what’s going on and what different traditions and motifs symbolize.
- Are there any traditions or rituals that you want to learn more about?
- Is your synagogue or local rabbi hosting any classes or lectures related to the High Holidays that you want to sign up for?
5. The week of Rosh Hashanah
While there is plenty to prepare in advance, some things just have to wait until the last moment.
- Do you have bread designated for tashlich in your pantry?
- Have you set aside money to perform kapparot?
- If you go to the mikveh before Rosh Hashanah, do you have an appointment set?
- Have you made sure friends and community members, especially ones without family in town or those who converted, have a Rosh Hashanah meal to go to?
- Does everyone in your family have a machzor?
- Have you called family and friends that you won’t be seeing during the holidays to wish them a sweet and happy new year?
- Have you thought about the upcoming new year and made any goals or set any intentions for 5782?
That’s it – you’re ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and welcome in the new year! Let us know if we forgot anything, or if you found this checklist useful. Shana tova u’metukah from the Judaica Webstore team in Jerusalem!