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Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year)

Updated on March 8, 2014

The Jewish New Year

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Rosh Hashana literally means the head of the year. It is the first day of the Jewish Year and the first day of the ten days of penitence. These ten days begin the Tishrei (first month of the Jewish Year, which usually coincides with September and October) holiday season (which ends with Simhat Tora on the 23rd of Tishrei).

Rosh Hashana: the Preparation

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Rosh Hashana is a time for introspection and prayer. Because of this, Jews around the world prepare for Rosh Hashana. Sephardic Jews (Jews who originally came from Spain) get up early throughout the month of Elul (the month before Rosh Hashana) to say Slihot (prayers requesting forgiveness for our sins). Ashkenazic Jews (Jews from Eastern Europe and Germany) say Slihot from the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana. In addition, Ashkenazic Jews also blow the shofar (the ram's* horn blown on Rosh Hashana) during the month of Elul.

Rosh Hashana: The Day

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Rosh Hashana, like all Jewish holidays, begins at sundown. In 2010, this means Rosh Hashana begins around sundown on Wednesday, September 8th. Right around this time, evening services begin at synagogues around the world.

At dinner, after synagogue services, kiddush (a blessing over wine that sanctifies the day) is recited, just as it is recited on other Jewish holidays and Shabbat (the Sabbath). And, again just as is done on Shabbat and holidays, a blessing is made over Halla (bread). During the rest of the year, Halla is generally braided, but for Rosh Hashana, the Halla is baked in a circle to represent the cycle of the year.

On Rosh Hashana, the halla is dipped in honey as a symbol for a sweet year. Then a slice of apple (or a new fruit -- a fruit that one hasn't eaten yet that year -- like a pomegranate) is dipped into the honey and a blessing asking for a sweet year is recited.

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On the days of Rosh Hashana (there are two days of Rosh Hashana), services begin in the synagogue much like every Jewish holiday and Shabbat. But in the later part of the services, there are more prayers and the Shofar, a Ram's horn*, is sounded. The total number of blasts on the Shofar adds up to 100 per day.

In the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana, Tashlikh (a prayer said at a body of water) is said. In large Jewish communities, synagogue members often congregate together at the nearest body of water to pray together. It is a custom during Tashlikh to drop bread crumbs, which symbolizes getting rid of our sins, into the water.

* While a Ram's horn is the traditional horn used as a Shofar (because of the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac), other kosher mammals' horn may be used.

After Rosh Hashana: What comes next?

Tishrei is the Month for Jewish Holidays

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The 10 days of Penitence ends on the 10th or Tishrei, which is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a fast day. People spend the entire day praying. Many people dress in white to represent purity and our similarity to angels.

Five days after the high holy days, with their introspection and somber mood, comes Sukkot, a holiday that is called "the time of our joy". Sukkot is the harvest holiday and one of the pilgrimage holidays. In ancient Israel, people would go to Jerusalem on the pilgrimage holidays and worship at the Holy Temple.

The holiday season of Tishrei ends with Sh'mini Atzeret (the additional 8th day after the 7 days of Sukkot) and Simhat Tora. Simhat Tora is a day for celebration and dancing and singing with the Tora scrolls. When we read the Tora, each week we read a different section of the Tora. On Simhat Tora, we read the final section, which describes Moses's death, and then begin over again with the story of the Genesis.

After all this holiday revelry, is it any wonder that the next month, Heshvan, has no holidays?

Western Wall Cutting Board
Western Wall Cutting Board

Compugraph Designs Printfection Store (Judaica themed merchandise)

In addition to our Cafe Press and Zazzle sites (see modules above), we also have a store on "Printfection" which includes cutting boards (good wedding or housewarming gifts), mugs and cups, tees, etc.

This cutting board is only one of several Jewish holiday themed items at our store:

Compugraphd Printfection site

(Click on the picture to go directly to this product's page)

Compugraph Designs Printfection Store (Jewish Holiday themed merchandise)

In addition to our Cafe Press and Zazzle sites (see modules above), we also have a store on "Printfection" which includes cutting boards (good wedding or housewarming gifts), mugs and cups, tees, etc.

This mug is only one of several Jewish holiday themed items at our store:

Compugraphd Printfection site

(Click on the picture to go directly to this product's page)

Tell me what you think....

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      I love Rosh Hashana :) Liked it for you.

      Feel free to visit my Inexpensive Wedding Dresses

      lens. Thanx

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Once again, I learned a few things from reading one of your lenses. Interesting! Thumbs up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      We all are waiting for this New Year 2011..such a nice written lens. Happy New Year to all !!.

    • profile image

      scar4 

      7 years ago

      This is the second lens I have read on squidoo about Jewish New Year. Thanks for the information.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      9 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Welcome to Judaism, Jewish Holidays, and Jewish Culture.

    • profile image

      Aaron_Shaffier 

      9 years ago

      Nice lens. I want to invite you to join my new group squidoo.com/groups/jewish

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      What a great explanation.

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