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Home » Festivals » Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

Written by Zev on April 14, 2011 – 10:19 am -

Apple and Honey served in a silver bowl. These fruits are the traditional symbols of Rosh Hashanah, representing the sweet new year to come

The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah as it translates into Hebrew, although the literal translation for Rosh Hashanah is “Head of the Year”

Rosh Hashanah falls during the month of Tishrei, and always ten days before the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are regarded by most as the most important days in the Judaic calendar, and are generally known as the Days of Awe or Yamim Nora’im, in Hebrew. Jews in the Diaspora normally will refer to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as the High Holidays.

The month of Tishrei holds very special significance for observant Jews because it is believed that Tishrei is the month during which God created the world. While many Jewish festivals are celebrated for just one day in Israel, and for two among Jews in the Diaspora, Rosh Hashanah is observed over two days around the World, and always on the first two days of Tishrei. There are several reasons given for this, but it is generally accepted that because of uncertainty of when the new moon would be observed, the Torah sages decided that the festival should be celebrated over two days.

Tradition demands that Jews should use the days immediately before Rosh Hashanah as well as the days leading up to Yom Kippur as a period of self-examination. Known as teshuvah, Jews should also repent for any wrong-doings they have perpetrated during the previous year, as well as making amends to anyone they may have wronged. Rosh Hashanah is regarded as the time for a person to set any plans that they have for self improvement in motion.

Although Rosh Hashanah, by nature, is a time for reassessment, it is still a festive occasion in most respects, and a reason for family and friends to s pray together, dine together and enjoy being together

The significance of Rosh Hashanah will always hit home, when attending the prayer service to celebrate the festival as it can last several hours, usually from early in the morning till well after lunch time. The service for Rosh Hashanah is conducted using a prayer book, known as the Mazhor. The Mazhor contains two of the most important and well known prayers in Judaism, Unetaneh Tohkef, which relates to the meaning of life and death, and Avienu Malkeinu which stands for “Our Father Our King” in Hebrew.

Blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah

Blowing the shofar is one of the most well central parts of celebrating Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is to be blown one hundred times during the two days of Rosh Hashanah with the purpose of reminding people in the congregation of the implications of reflection.

Another tradition followed during Rosh Hashanah is known as Taschlich, which is followed during the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The meaning of “Tashlich” in Hebrew is to “cast off” and is enacted by a Jew tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water, to depict the symbol of casting off the sins of the previous year

Pomegranates - another traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit. It is said that each seed represents one of the 613 mitzvot that Jews are expected to fulfill.

After all of the hours spent in synagogue, families enjoy congregating for a traditional Rosh Hashanah meal. The centre piece of the table will always be based around a plate containing apples and honey, which will symbolize a sweet new year while pomegranates are often found on traditional tables. The reason being that pomegranates are reported to contain no less than 613 seeds, one for each of the 613 mitzvoth.

A loaf of Challah bread that is consumed on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). The roundness of the load represents the whole year that has gone by.

Round challah bread will also be found at every table, its roundness symbolizing that the year has gone found circle. Ashkenazi Jews will also serve Gefilte fish and a sweet honey cake known as Lekach during Rosh Hashanah.

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