Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year )

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, even though it is observed in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar year, the month of Tishrei! Rosh Hashana celebrates the creation of the world, which is reflected in the literal meaning of its name, "head of the year."

Jews all over the world often greet each other with the Hebrew phrase "Shana Tova" meaning "good new year" or "Lashana Tova",  meaning "to a good new year".

The holiday takes place at the beginning of the month of Tishrei, which is actually the seventh month of the Jewish calendar year. This is a time of both joy and serious introspection, a time to celebrate the end of another year while thinking of bettering oneself in the coming year.

In preparation for Rosh Hashana, the shofar, a ram's horn, is traditionally blown each day at the end of morning prayer during the month of Elul (the month before Tishrei). The sound of the shofar was in ancient times, and is today, a call to repentance. 

The week before (for Ashkenazic Jews) or the month before (for Sepharadic Jews) Rosh Hashanah, special prayers called "Selihot" are added to the morning service. Selihot means "forgiveness." Rosh Hashanah is also called "Yom HaDin" meaning "Judgment Day," when God opens the Books of Life and Death, which are sealed on Yom Kippur.

During Rosh Hashana, Jews attend synagogue services and are not permitted to work. Candles are lit on on the first night of the holiday, Erev Rosh Hashana (eve of the New Year), and after nightfall on the second night of the holiday.

Traditional foods on Rosh Hashana:

The challah (a braided bread) eaten at the holiday meal is round and symbolizes the eternal circle of life.

It is traditional to dip the challah in honey for a sweet new year.

Apples slices dipped in honey are also for a sweet and happy new year.

The Pomegranate is an especially important food on Rosh Hashana. The seeds symbolize the many mitzvot imeaning "good deeds" and also God's commands in the Torah that Jews must observe.

Fish heads are placed on the table on Rosh Hashana because of the literal meaning of the holiday, "head of the year." It also symbolizes that each person should be a leader in vision and purpose.

A very popular tradition associated with Rosh Hashana is called "Tashlich," meaning "throw away." One walks to a body of water (river, stream, ocean etc) and recites special "teshuvah"  meaning "Forgiveness" prayers. Afterwards, bread crumbs are thrown into the body of water, to symbolically cast away one's sins. This ceremony is held on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

I wish you, wherever you are, a happy new year, as sweet as honey!

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