Rosh Hashanah – The Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah – The Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, means “head” or “beginning of the year”, and starts on Tishrei 1st, the 7th month of the Jewish calendar (September-October). Rosh Hashanah begins ten days leading up to the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These ten days are called the yomim nora’im or Days of Awe in modern Judaism.

Rosh Hashanah: Sundown, Sunday, September 25 through nightfall, Tuesday, September 27
Yom Kippur: Sundown, Tuesday, October 4 through nightfall, Wednesday, October 5

According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is the day on which God created “adam”—the Hebrew word for “human.” In other words, Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of humanity. It is a celebration of life itself. After the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, even though this feast day falls on the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar, it began to be called Rosh Hashanah and became the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar.

In Israel, Rosh Hashanah is the only holiday that lasts for two days as it is considered too important to be observed for only 24 hours. It is a time for reflecting on your life and challenging yourself to become a better human being.

Of the two main High Holy Days, also called the High Holidays, the first is Rosh Hashanah, or the New Year celebration. It is one of two new year celebrations in the Jewish faith, the other being Passover in the spring.

Know about the festival

Rosh Hashanah has been celebrated for thousands of years and is marked by ancient traditions. At the same time, Jewish cultural practices are ever-changing and the way to observe Rosh Hashanah has evolved over the centuries.

Shanah Tovah The customary greeting of “Happy New Year!”

Tzedakah is The practice of beginning the New Year by giving charitable gifts or doing charitable acts.

Holiday Meal Rosh HaShanah begins at sundown with a holiday meal that includes traditional blessings. Round challah is served to symbolize the cycle of years and seasons. Apples and honey are served to symbolize hopes for a sweet new year.

Shofar A ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet during the Rosh HaShanah services and at the end of Yom Kippur. Sounding the shofar reminds us to look inward and strive to be our best selves in the coming year. The shofar has four different sounds:

  • Tekiah One short blast
  • Shvarim Three short blasts
  • Teruah Nine short blasts
  • Tekiah gedolah One long blast

Tashlich This Hebrew word means “to cast away.” It’s traditional to go to a body of water, such as a lake or river, on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh HaShanah for a ceremony to symbolically cast away the things we did wrong in the past year so we can start fresh in the new year.

Traditions of Rosh Hashanah

There is no work permitted on Rosh Hashanah, so most of the day is spent in the synagogue reading from the Machzor, a special prayer book written for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hearing the sound of the shofar (the ram’s horn that is blown) is one of the most important practices of Rosh Hashanah because its sound is a call to repentance.

Jewish people enjoy sweets on Rosh Hashanah: treats made with apples, honey, raisins, figs, and pomegranates. Eating sweet things symbolizes the desire for a “sweet” year; also included is the idea that the enjoyment of sweet things can help counter the sorrow associated with repentance. In the eating of pomegranates, some Rosh Hashanah celebrants express the wish that their good deeds will be as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate. Others eat portions of the head of a fish or a sheep, symbolizing the desire to be “the head, not the tail”. Many people also throw bread crumbs into a flowing river to represent casting away their sins. This practice is called Tashlich.

L’shanah tovah, meaning “for a good year”, is commonly used as a greeting these days. This is the short version of a longer saying: “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem,” meaning “May you and yours be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year.”

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.