Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, Begins Tonight

Shana tovah u'metukah

Shana tovah u'metukah

By Ally Linkous

Shana tovah u'metukah,” to all who read this message.  This greeting is a common salutation during Rosh Hashanah meaning “a good and sweet year”.  Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days (Yamim Noraim ) also referred to as three "Days of Awe", and culminates 10 days later on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  This year Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated from sundown on September 28th to nightfall on September 30th.

Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year” or “first of the year” and is commonly referred to as the Jewish New Year.  This title “Jewish New Year” holds a bit of confusion in that it occurs on the first and second days of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar year (the Hebrew date for Rosh Hashanah is 1 Tishrei 5772).  In Jewish tradition there are four “New Years” that take place throughout the calendar year.  In the oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of the creation of the world and is the New Year for people, animals and legal contracts.

It is believed that during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Jews have the opportunity to repent, atone for sins and gain renewal.  Renewal is sought through three separate acts.  First you must repent (Tshuvah, which literally means “returning”), followed by prayer (Tefilla) and lastly the giving of gifts of money (Tzedakah).

The holiday is not mentioned as Rosh Hashanah in the Torah (the Torah is comprised of the first five book of the Bible), but it was established in Leviticus 23:24-25 as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar).  No work is permitted on this day.  Traditionally Jews gather in the synagogue for extended services that follow the specification of a special prayer book called the mahzor, which is used during the Days of Awe.  During this time Jews are to listen to the literal “wakeup call” of the shofar, which is a ram's horn that is blown somewhat like a trumpet.  The commandment or mitzvah instructs followers to listen for the shofar which is special to this time of year and is one of the most important observances of this holiday.

                                           Shofar

                                           Shofar

There are a total of 400 different notes sounded each day.  Of the total there are four different types of notes: the tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, is 3 one-second notes which rise in tone; teruah, a series of short, staccato notes which last about three seconds each; and the tekiah gedolah (literally meaning, "big tekiah") with the final blast of lasting roughly  10 seconds at the minimum.  The only time the shofar is not blown is when the holiday falls on a Sabbath.

Another popular practice of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlikh ("casting off").  On the afternoon of the first day followers will walk to a flowing water source (such as a creek) and empty out their pockets into the water, which is the gesture of casting off sins. Often time’s small pieces of bread are put in the pocket to cast off. This is not a biblical practice, but is a long-standing custom.  However, if the first day falls on a Sabbath ,Tashlikh is observed on Sunday afternoon to avoid carrying on the Sabbath.

Honey and Apple

Honey and Apple

Rosh Hashanah also uses different foods to symbolize hope and well wishes for the year to come.  Apples and honey are a centerpiece used to symbolize the desire for a sweet new year to come.  Also included are raisin challah, honey cake and pomegranate.  Apples and honey are connected to Judaism on a more profound level than just taste. In the Song of Songs 2:3, King Solomon compares the Jewish people to apples, “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.  With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste," and the Jewish homeland is known as the "Land of Milk and Honey" in the Torah and the Bible.

This evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah for the Jewish people, entering the very special High Holy Days.  We want to recognize the Jews as they celebrate this holiday and we are reminded once again to keep Israel in our prayers.  Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

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