Chodesh tov! It's Rosh Chodesh Elul -- the start of the new lunar month, which means the Jewish New Year is in a mere four weeks. Holy wow.
Last year I posted a grab-bag of resources for Yom Kippur, in response to a reader in rural Japan who wanted some materials he could use in planning his Yom Kippur experience. This year, a reader in Hawai'i has asked whether I can offer any pointers to resources for Rosh Hashanah, and I promised to share some thoughts at the start of Elul as the ramp-up to the Days of Awe begins. Which would be, um, now.
MyJewishLearning offers a good overview of the holiday, along with some good material about its liturgy. The folks at Ritualwell have collected a bunch of Rosh Hashanah resources, including poems, readings, and some simple rituals for tashlich (the ritual casting-away of whatever one needs to release from the year now ending.) And here's an earth-centered look at the lunar month of Tishri, courtesy of Tel Shemesh.
With no further ado, here's a miscellany of resources I've found and saved over the last few years: links to liturgy, book recommendations, sermons and divrei Torah, podcasts/audio, and stories and poems. This is my own idiosyncratic list, so please feel free to add links to other resources you recommend. May the month of Elul be sweet as we do the work of preparing ourselves for transformation!
If you're able to invest in a machzor (high holiday prayerbook) or two, do. (I know, I said this very thing in the Y"K post I made last year! But it's still true.) The more time one spends with the holiday liturgy before the holiday rolls around, the better one's holiday experience is likely to be.
I've just picked up a copy of The New Kehila Machzor, a Jewish Renewal machzor edited by Rabbi David Shneyer of Am Kolel, which I'm really glad to own. It contains a fairly comprehensive holiday liturgy, in Hebrew and in (prayerful, pray-able) English, alongside readings, reflections, and contemporary poetry. It's a pretty paperback, 8" x 10." You can buy it here (the cost is $20 for the general public, or $18 for ALEPH members.)
Rosh Hashana, an audio program featuring Rabbi Richard Hirsch and Rabbi Shawn Zevit. 25 minutes of "Jewish Reconstructionist Radio," RealAudio. Conversation about the Days of Awe, some music, some storytelling. This is a sweet way to prepare for the Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashanah from the Oy Mendele! podcast. "Yehudit and Reuven Goldfarb of Berkeley's Aquarian Minyan discuss Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year/birthday of the world." Streaming audio. A terrific conversation about the Days of Awe, which closes with some excellent music.
Hayom Harat Olam ("Today is the birthday of the world") is one of my favorite snippets of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. This post from Kesher Talk features an mp3 of the prayer being chanted, along with (in print) the words of the prayer and some reflections on its themes.
Avinu Malkeinu is as central to Rosh Hashanah as it is to Yom Kippur. Here is the English version by Rabbi Burt Jacobson which I like so much -- "Our Father, our King, teach us how to make this year a new beginning. / Our Mother, our Queen, teach us how to grow from the harshness of life..."
Unetaneh Tokef is another central prayer recited on the Days of Awe. Here's the MyJewishLearning piece about it, which includes the English text of the prayer. Here's a version intended for children, written by Julie Sandler Friedman, which I think is pretty terrific for adults too. And here's a beautiful interpretive version by Jack Riemer.
Reb Arthur Waskow has written a gender-inclusive version of another of Rosh Hashanah's prayers: Hu Yaanenu / Hi Taanenu ("May You Answer Us").
(Edited to add:) At the start of 5769 I wrote an interpretive version of the Hineni prayer which is traditionally chanted at the start of the Musaf (additional) service on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. You can find it here: Hineni: Here I Stand. As always, you're welcome to use it if it speaks to you, and to reprint it as long as my name and blog address are attached.
Sermons / divrei Torah
Teshuvah (repentance / turning-toward-God), introspection, celebration, renewal: the themes of the High Holiday season are awesome indeed. The Torah readings for these days are pretty overwhelming, too -- on the first day of the holiday we read the casting-out of Hagar and Ishmael, and on the second day, the binding of Isaac. Here are a few sermons and divrei Torah that approach some or all of these themes in ways I find valuable:
That which you are seeking is causing you to seek, by Rabbi Alan Lew.
The Torah of Silence, a d'var Torah by Rabbi Yair Hillel Goelman.
Why Hagar Left, "womantorah" by Reb Phyllis Berman.
Rosh Hashanah: Solemn Joy by Rabbi Shefa Gold.
Rosh Hashanah: God and people mutually accountable by Rabbi Shai Gluskin.
Sermon for the second day of Rosh Hashanah by yours truly.
Poems and stories
Three knots in the binding of Isaac by Reb Arthur Waskow.
Rosh Hashanah parables told by Alexander Alan Steinbach.
Two poems of introspection by Yehuda Amichai.