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Rosh Hashanah - The Jewish New Year Print E-mail

Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year occurs on the first and second days of Tishrei. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” In 2010 we will enter the 5771st year of the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish New Year is a time of introspection, reckoning and an opportunity to connect back to the source.

The holiday is originally presented in the Book of Leviticus, chapters 23:24-25, “In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation.”

The name Rosh Hashanah does not appear in the Torah, instead it is referred to as Yom Ha-Zikaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar).

The Shofar

The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown during services. One of the most important observances of this holiday is to hear the sound of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded on each day.

There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, “big tekiah”), a final longer blast. The sound of the shofar is likened to a call to repentance. If the festival falls on Shabbat the shofar is not blown.

Rosh Hashanah is considered a holy day, hence no work is permitted. People attend synagogue and use a special prayer book called the Machzor. It includes the regular daily prayers as well as a number of additional liturgies.

Symbolic Foods

During Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat apples dipped in honey as a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year.

We also prepare the challah but rather than the weekly Shabbat braided bread, it is instead baked in a round shape to signify the circle of life and continuity. We also dip bread in honey instead of the usual practice of sprinkling it with salt.

We also eat other foods that symbolise good things we hope for in the coming year. We contemplate what these foods symbolise, and connect with the source of all good things. The symbolic foods are based on a word game which connects the name of a certain food, to a particular hope we have for the new year. The following is the list as taken from the Talmud:
• Leek or cabbage
• Beets
• Dates
• Gourd/Squash/Pumpkin
• Pomegranate
• Fish head

Tashlich
We are obligated to perform Tashlich (“casting off”). by walking to fl owing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and emptying our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off.

When the first day occurs on Shabbat, many synagogues observe Tashlich on Sunday afternoon, to avoid the carrying of the bread on Shabbat.

Greetings for the Jewish New Year

Finally, some common greetings used at this time include: L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” And other say Shanah tovah u’metukah (have a good and sweet year).

(Issue September 2010)

 

 

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