By Shelley Neese
Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on Friday, September 18. So I want to give you a quick summary about this important Jewish holiday.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. In the Hebrew calendar, the holiday falls on the first and second days of the month Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah represents the universe’s birthday and the miraculous creation of the first humans, Adam and eve. Rosh Hashanah marks the number of years since the start of creation. When celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people gather in synagogues all over the world to mark the birth of God’s creation.
According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is also a “day of judgment” or the “day of remembrance.” On this day it is believed that God sits on his throne and looks through books that record all the deeds of everyone on earth. God then decides who has been righteous or wicked. The names of the wicked are believed to be erased from the Book of Life.
During the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and another Jewish holiday called Yom Kippur, the Jewish people do three things. Everyone must ask for forgiveness from each other for any wrongdoings. In Hebrew it’s called Teshuvah. They pray and ask God for forgiveness. Tashlich is a ritual many Jewish people do where they go to a river or spring and recite certain prayers. While they are praying, they throw small pebbles or bread into the water that represent the “throwing off their sins.” This ritual comes from verses like Micah 7:19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Also on Rosh Hashanah it is customary to give charity to the poor and needy. This is called Tzedakah. In Biblical times, the curtain on the ark was changed into a white one, to symbolize that all sins were “whitened like snow.”
Rosh Hashanah meals usually include foods that symbolize a sweet new year. The most common thing to eat on the holiday is apples dipped in honey. Other symbolic foods include round challah bread and pomegranates. The challah bread’s shape represents the cycle of a full year. The pomegranate’s many seeds symbolize being fruitful in the New Year and having “plenty.”
There are three main themes for Rosh Hashanah: Kingship, Remembrance, and the Shofar.
During Rosh Hashanah people blow the shofar to signal the holiday. You can hear shofar blasts all over Jerusalem. The shofar is a musical instrument usually made out of the horn of a ram because of the ram’s connection to the story of Abraham and Isaac. The shofar is supposed to wake everyone up so they will be ready for the judgment. There are three different sounds that the Shofar makes: one long sound, 3 broken sounds, and nine short sounds. When Shofars are blown during synagogue services; no one is allowed to talk while the shofar is blasting. The ‘shofar blower’ always dresses in an all-white robe to symbolize purity.
It is custom on Rosh Hashanah to tell everyone you see “L’shana Tova.” That means “have a good new year.”
So to all of you, L’Shana Tova.