The Head of the Year
The Jewish New Year, called Rosh HaShanah in Hebrew, is observed for two days beginning on the Jewish date of Tishrei 1st.
At Rosh HaShanah we focus on the special relationship between G-d and humanity. This is day we reaffirm and proclaim that G-d is King of the Universe. Jewish tradition saysthat on Rosh HaShanah your name and fate is either entered in the Book of Life or it is not. If your name is not entered or your fate is unfavorable, G-d gives you 10 days, called the Days of Awe, to atone and change your ways. On Yom Kippur, the Book of Life is sealed. Therefore, the 10 days following Rosh HaShanah is a very important time for introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.
Before Rosh HaShanah we prepare for these days with special prayers called the Selichot or Supplication Prayers. These are prayers inwhich we call upon G-d to hear our prayers of repetance that will happen from Rosh HaShannah until Yom Kippur. Here are the Selichot in English.
One of the most important observances for Rosh HaShanah is to sound the shofar. The Torah even refers to Rosh HaShanah as 'Yom Teruah' - the Day to Sound the Shofar (see Leviticus 23:24-25) The cry of the shofar is to call for repentance. Additionally, in Biblical times a trumpet was blasted at the coronation of a king. Thus, we sound the shofar as a reverent call to G-d, the King of the Universe. A total of 100 notes are played on Rosh HaShanah.
Other Rosh HaShanah traditions include:
▪ Eating the fruit of the pomegranate - it is said that that pomegranate contains 613 seeds, one for each mitzvah, good deeds we are duty-bound to observe, to remind us to perform the mitzvot in the coming year.
▪ The women of the household light candles and making blessings over them to welcome the holiday.
▪ Recitation of the Kiddush, a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the holiday.
▪ Baking a round Challah (traditional bread) to symbolize the cyclic nature of the calendar and then making a blessing over it.
▪ Visit a natural body of water for the Tashlich: a symbolic act of casting off the previous year's sins by throwing pieces of bread in to a natural body of flowing water.
▪ Greet everyone with "Shanah Tova!" - Hebrew version of Happy New Year!
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