By Hanna Bloch and Oz Bin-Nun, Community Shlichim
The Little Sister - Ahot Ketannah (אחות קטנה) is a piyut of eight stanzas sung in the Sephardic ritual before the evening service of Rosh Hashanah.
The chorus runs "May the year end with her curses!" ("תכלה שנה וקללותיה") and changes in the last stanza to "May the year begin with her blessings!" ("תחל שנה וברכותיה"). The people of Israel are symbolized in the poem as a little sister who suffers greatly yet remains loyal to her lover - God.
Growing up, Hanna would go with her family to a Sephardi synagogue, in which this piyut was sung every year at Rosh Hashanah. For Hanna, this beloved song is a big part of her Rosh Hashanah and something to look forward to every year. For most of his life, Oz was never at home on Rosh Hashanah. Oz's family always went to a Kibbutz in the north of Israel called Hamadia at Rosh Hashanah. Hamadia is a secular Kibbutz, but the people of the Kibbutz built a synagogue and pray at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Oz's family has prayed with them every year since 2008. This partnership became a deep friendship. Oz's friends from Hamadia come to all the family celebrations.
For us, Rosh Hashanah is a time for being with our family, our brothers and sisters – not necessarily by blood. It is very meaningful to us that the piyut we are used to singing on this day is named after a sister. It's a day in which we all stand together and pray for a better year, not just for ourselves but for all our big family of the Israeli people – brothers and sisters.
Rosh Hashanah is also the only holiday that the Jews of Israel celebrate for two days – like holiday celebrations in communities outside of Israel. Maybe this can also teach us that Rosh Hashanah is a special time of yachad (יחד) – togetherness.
This year is our first Rosh Hashanah without our families, but we feel very lucky and glad to be here with our bigger family and our community in Madison. We hope that we'll have a great year together and pray deeply like in the piyut. May the year end with her curses. May the year begin with her blessings. Shanah Tovah!
We invite you to help us make this new year better! Come to volunteer and join us in planning the Sigd holiday (a special holiday of Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jewish community) and Hanukkah!