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Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year and is celebrated for two days on the first and second of Tishri. It also marks the start of the ten days of repentance.
In the Torah, Rosh Hashana is also referred to as Yom Teruah (The Day of the Sounding of Shofar) and Yom Zikaron Teruah (The Day of Remembering the Sounding of the Sofar).
In prayer, Rosh Hashana is also called Yom Ha'Zikaron (The Day of Memorial) and Yom Ha'Din (The Day of Judgement)
During Talmudic times, Rosh Hashana was celebrated as the anniversary of the time that the world was created. It was the Mishna which first used the name Rosh Hashana which has now become the commonly used name for the holiday.
It is customary on Rosh Hashana to eat apple dipped in honey, symbolizing our hopes for a sweet and happy year. Some Jews also put honey on their challah (instead of salt) from Rosh Hashana until the end of Simchat Torah.
Different greetings can be used on Rosh Hashana. Shana Tova (Happy New Year), L'Shana Tova Tikatavu (May you be inscribed for a Happy Year) and Shana Tova U'matuka (Happy and a Sweet New Year).
Hearing the sounding of the shofar is one of the most important observances on Rosh Hashana and is a central feature to the Synagogue Service.
The shofar is a ram's horn which was often heard on important occassions in biblical times; the Revalations on Mounts Sinai; warning that a battle was approaching or that hostilities had stopped; Isaiah and Zachariah prophesied that this sound will precede the gathering of exiles and the Messianic Age.
On Rosh Hashana, however, when the Shofar is heard, one should reflect on their deeds and ask forgiveness from God for any sins or wrong doings committed.
The shofar recalls the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) when Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. When God saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son, a ram was offered up instead.
If Rosh Hashana falls on a Shabbat,the shofar is not blown.
There are three distinct types of shofar sounds.
- Tekiah - one long, straight sound.
- Shvarim - three medium, broken sounds.
- Truah - ten quick blasts in short succession.
The Torah tells us we must hear a minimum of nine shofar blasts on Rosh Hashana. The person who blows the shofar must stand in the same place where the Torah is read. Before the shofar is blown, the blessings are recited and one is not permitted to speak until the end of the shofar blowing.
The shofar is first blown immediately after the Reading of the Law and a total of 30 blasts are sounded. These are also repeated again as part of the Musaf service, making a total of 60 blasts. It is also customary to sound a further 40 blasts at the end of the services, bringing a total of 100 blasts. The final blast is called "Tekiah Gedolah" which is an extended prolonged Tekiah blast.
Like on Shabbat, one should attend prayer services at a Synagogue during Rosh Hashana. A special prayer book called a Machzor is used to follow the service.
The Reading of the Law on the first and second days relate to the birth of Iasaac, and the Akedah. The Haftorah on the first day tells the story of Hannah, her prayer for offspring, the subsequent birth of her son Samuel, and her prayer of thanksgiving. According to tradition, Hannah's son was conceived on Rosh HaShana. The second day Haftorah is about the prophecy of Jeremiah fortelling the restoration of Israel.
Tashlich (You Shall Cast Off) is the custom of going to the sea-shore or the banks of a river and symbolically throwing your sins into the water. Tashlich is performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana. If the first day falls on Shabbat then one goes on the second day. The prayer recited comes from the book of Micah (vii, 18-20) expressing confidence in the Divine Forgiveness.
Rosh Hashana Part 2 >>