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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, translates to “Head of the Year,” emphasizing its pivotal role as the starting point for the annual cycle. In a symbolic reflection of the head’s control over the body, the actions taken on Rosh Hashanah hold profound significance, shaping the trajectory of the upcoming year. This holiday marks a period of divine judgment and review, when God assesses the behavior of all His subjects and determines their destinies for the approaching year.

But Rosh Hashanah is not only about personal reflection and divine judgment. It is a day when the Jewish community collectively and symbolically crowns God as the King of the Universe. This act of coronation is not merely a ceremonial gesture but a profound acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and authority over all aspects of life. The coronation underscores the deep spiritual connection and commitment of the Jewish people to God, signifying the acceptance of God’s kingship anew each year.

The blowing of the Shofar during Rosh Hashanah serves as a proclamation, declaring God as our King and affirming our devoted allegiance to Him. Although characterized by judgment, Rosh Hashanah is also imbued with the immense love that God holds for His people.

As articulated in Rosh Hashanah prayers, the day unfolds with a celestial assessment, as “all inhabitants of the world pass before God like a flock of sheep.” Decrees are made in the heavenly court, outlining the destinies of individuals, including matters of life, death, prosperity, and adversity.

Beyond the solemnity of judgment, Rosh Hashanah is a day of prayer, offering an opportunity to beseech the Almighty for a year filled with peace, prosperity, and blessings. Despite its serious undertones, it is also a joyous occasion, marked by the proclamation of G‑d as the King of the Universe. According to Kabbalistic teachings, the continued existence of the universe hinges on God’s ongoing desire for a world, a desire that is renewed as we collectively accept His kingship afresh each year on Rosh Hashanah.


Shabbat/Sabbath (שַׁבָּת‎‎ in Hebrew)

Shabbat is the seventh day of the Hebrew week, commemorating the seventh and final day of Creation when God “rested” from creating, as it says in the Hebrew Bible:

“On the seventh day Hashem finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And Hashem blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it Hashem ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-2)

Shabbat is also a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, and “a taste of the World to Come.” These three aspects bind the Creation of the world, the creation of the People of Israel, and the ultimate perfected state of the world into a weekly experience.

The word ‘Shabbat’ means ‘rest,’ and is known as ‘Saturday’ or ‘the Sabbath’ by the rest of the world.

This weekly holiday begins slightly before sunset on Friday night, and ends upon the emergence of three medium-sized stars in the sky on Saturday night.

Shabbat is celebrated with special community prayers, festive family meals, Torah study, and refraining from 39 categories of creative labor. Stepping away from the responsibilities of the world allows us to focus on our relationship with Hashem, our families, and community.

The unbreakable connection between the People of Israel and Shabbat through the millennia can be summed up by the famous saying, “More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.”

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