I first wrote the checklist below five years ago. Back then it included information about Shmitah, a distant memory. I’ve edited it, and republishing it as a new post. I’ve also set up a page with the best posts about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
Some of the tips below only apply when Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbat or leads into Shabbat. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions. You can also post on the Mother in Israel Facebook page.
.If you’re looking for entertainment, check out my interview with Mirj at Miryummy.
Those of us in Israel aren’t used to a three-day Yom Tov (two days of Rosh Hashanah followed by Shabbat). Wherever you are, here are some tips to keep you sane if you are panicking about now.
- Check out Carolyn’s lists on Juggling Frogs. They are long, and many items may not be relevant for you, but you don’t want to overlook anything critical.
- Remember that you can cook on Rosh Hashanah for that day, and on Friday for Shabbat. Of course we don’t want to spend all Yom Tov in the kitchen! But if you are behind, first worry about the Wednesday night meal and any dishes that you make using an electric appliance. I always remember that if I use up more food than expected, I can always take meat out of the freezer on the second night (Thursday) to cook Friday. I’ve never had to do it, though. (In 2009, this would be Saturday night for Sunday lunch.)
- How many cakes and kugels can you eat anyway? Keep the menu simple. Plain vegetables with herbs are healthier anyway, and can be cooked quickly on Yom Tov.
- Don’t cook faster than you can clean up. Take the time to clear a cluttered workspace, and you’ll be more efficient.
- Making decisions can take more time than cooking. Plan what you are serving for each meal, how you will heat up the food, and which utensils you will use. Be sure to defrost everything early, preferably in the refrigerator.
- Set up and test any timers, including for the air-conditioner, early in the day on Wednesday (Friday in 2009), then turn them on before candle-lighting.
- Don’t forget the Eruv Tavshilin! This involves setting aside food from before the holiday that allows one to prepare on Friday for Shabbat, including lighting candles.
- Keep your family safe. Keep toddlers away from the stove, defrost and heat up stored food completely (for soup, that means boiling), and put away leftovers promptly.
- What are you doing on the computer? Get back to work! (Unless you’re nursing the baby.)
A word about halacha: One may not prepare for the second night of Rosh Hashanah before tzet hacochavim (the appearance of stars) So candle-lighting (from an existing flame), table-setting, and dishwashing must wait until that point. Our rabbi said, however, that one may warm up the food for the nighttime meal as long as it would be ready to eat while it is still daytime Thursday. I’m just quoting.
Another useful halacha for Yom Tov is found in the book Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchatah. While you can’t turn on an electric timer, you can push the thingamajigs in or out to make the appliance stay on for less or more time. So let’s say that I want to make cholent on Friday for Shabbat (this must also be done early in the day). Before Yom Tov, I’ll set the timer of the crockpot to go on only for 15 minutes each day, the minimumtime my device allow. On Friday, when I have the food in the pot, I’ll add extra time on the timer in either direction. I’ll be careful adjust it so that it will not go on or off while I am adjusting it. If it’s on already, I can make it stay on longer or start earlier. If it’s set to be on for too long, I can adjust it to start later and end earlier. If it’s not on at the moment, you can set it to go off completely. Just be careful not to disconnect the clock.
A hagaz, a manual timer that turns off gas automatically according to the interval you set, is a lifesaver for Rosh Hashanah. If you can find a 48-hour candle you are all set.
On Shabbat, we light candles, cover our eyes and then say the blessing. Once we say the blessing we have accepted Shabbat, so we can’t light them afterward. On Yom Tov, when lighting candles from an existing flame is permissible, we can say the blessings first (including shehecheyanu) and then light the candles. Many Sephardim (Jews of north African origin) don’t say a blessing on Yom Tov candles at all.
And one word for the mothers of young children out there: It’s hard to miss most or all of shul on Rosh Hashanah while caring for your kids on your own (I hope you can find a friend in the same situation). Keep in mind that Rosh Hashanah will come around again, but this season of your baby’s life happens only once.
Wishing all of you a Ketivah ve-Chatimah Tovah. May you and your families be inscribed for a good year.
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