By Menachem Posner, Chabad—-
1. Myth: Rosh Hashanah Is the “Jewish New Year”
Hallmark cards, greetings from public officials, and even Chabad.org articles refer to Rosh Hashanah as the “Jewish New Year,” which can imply that this is somehow the Jewish equivalent of January 1.
Fact: Rosh Hashanah Is the “Head of the Year”
That’s right, rosh is Hebrew for “head” and shanah means “year.” More than just the first day of the year, Rosh Hashanah functions like the head of the human body. If your mind is healthy, it sends healthy signals, properly directing your body parts. Likewise, a healthy Rosh Hashanah creates a healthy foundation for the rest of the year.
How do you have a healthy Rosh Hashanah? We all know the “doctor’s orders”: Desist from working, come to the synagogue to pray, hear the shofar, and celebrate with festive meals.
Another nuance: In a sense, there’s nothing inherently “Jewish” about this holiday. Every single human, indeed every element of creation, stands before G‑d in judgment on Rosh Hashanah.
Explore why this nuance in translation is so significant
2. Myth: Only Diaspora Jews Keep Two Days
Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot are all extended for an extra day in the Diaspora. Back when each month was declared by the court after witnesses attested to seeing the new moon, the news of the new month took time to travel from Jerusalem, and people in distant lands did not know which day to celebrate (read why this is still done today), so they observed two. There is a common misconception that Rosh Hashanah, like the pilgrim festivals, is celebrated for only one day in Israel.
Fact: Everyone Keeps Two Days
The reason is simple. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the month, when the new moon is declared. This means that even in Israel, they could not know for sure whether Rosh Hashanah would be declared on that day or the following day.
The universally accepted practice became that Rosh Hashanah should be observed for two days. This ensures that the celebration will definitely take place on the day when witnesses attest to seeing the new moon, and the new month is declared. Continue Reading….