Rosh Hashanah

New Year
  • Major Holidays
Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

ראש השנה

Rosh Ha-sha-NAH

“The ‘Head’ of the Year”

What is Rosh Hashanah

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.

When is Rosh Hashanah

Tishrei 1-2



Alternate Names for Rosh Hashanah

  • Yom Teruah – “The Day of the Shofar Blast”
  • Yom HaZikaron – “The Day of Remembrance”
  • Yom HaDin – “The Day of Judgment”
  • Yom Harat Olam – “The Birthday of the World”

Commandments (Mitzvot) of Rosh Hashanah

Hearing the Ram’s Horn (Shofar) Blast – The central commandment of Rosh Hashanah is the hearing of the shofar. The Torah mandates a minimum of nine shofar blasts, but due to uncertainty about the specific sound—whether it should be a groaning cry (Shevarim), a sobbing weep (Teruah), or a combination (Shevarim-Teruah) – all three are performed. Each sound is preceded and followed by an unbroken blast, Tekiah, resulting in a total of 30 blasts to fulfill the Torah precept without any doubt.

It is crucial for the shofar to be blown during daylight hours, with everyone standing and intending to fulfill their obligation. Before blowing, two blessings are recited: “To hear the sound of the shofar” and “She’hechianu.” Following the blessings, silence is maintained until the conclusion of the shofar blowing.

During the cantor’s repetition of the Musaf service, an additional 30 blasts are blown in various combinations. The customary practice involves an extra 40 blasts at the end of the service, totaling 100. The final blast, known as “Tekiah Gedolah,” is typically prolonged for added significance.

Customs of Rosh Hashanah

Symbolic Foods (Simanim) for a Happy New Year – On Rosh Hashanah, we partake in symbolic foods that represent our hopes for the upcoming year, contemplating their meanings and connecting with the Source of all blessings. Following a Talmudic list, we consume foods like leeks, beets, dates, gourds, and pomegranates, each accompanied by a prayer expressing specific wishes, such as the removal of adversaries or the increase of merits. Traditionally, starting the meal with apple slices dipped in honey symbolizes a desire for a good and sweet year. Some also consume parts of a fish or a ram’s head, expressing the wish to be a leader, not a follower. Additional traditional foods, like pomegranates and carrots, symbolize wishes for abundance and prosperity. It is customary to avoid nuts and sharp, vinegar-based foods, while on the second night, a “new fruit” is eaten before breaking bread to mark the new season and express hope for renewal.

Tashlich On the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, excluding Shabbat, a customary practice is to visit a body of water – be it an ocean, river, pond, or another similar setting – and engage in the Tashlich ceremony. During this ritual, individuals symbolically cast away their sins into the water, evoking the biblical verse, “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” The Tashlich prayer serves as a symbolic act of discarding one’s mistakes, emphasizing the Jewish approach of profound introspection and a genuine commitment to change. This tradition is also associated with commemorating the Midrashic account of Abraham wading through water up to his neck during the Akeida, the binding of Isaac. In instances where Rosh Hashanah coincides with Shabbat, the Tashlich ceremony is postponed to the second day. Moreover, if Tashlich was not recited on Rosh Hashanah itself, it remains permissible to perform the ritual at any time during the Ten Days of Repentance.

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