Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
through Friday September 6, 2013 at sunset
About Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means "head of the year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. The Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.
The phrase “Rosh Hashanah” is not used in the Torah to discuss this holiday. The Torah refers to the holiday as Yom Ha’zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom T’ruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.
No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer book called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.
The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: teki’ah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, t’ruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and teki’ah gedolah (literally, "big teki’ah"), the final blast in a set, which lasts until the blower is out of breath.
A popular observance during Rosh Hashanah is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. Bread is also dipped in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.
Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlich ("casting off"). Jews walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and usually toss bread crumbs, symbolically casting off our sins. This practice is not discussed in the Torah, but is a tradition.
The common greeting at this time is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed [in the book of life] and sealed for a good year," for it is said that at this time God is putting the names of all the people into one of two books; the book of life or the book of death.
The first month of the Jewish calendar is Nissan, occurring in March and April. Why, then, does the Jewish "new year" occur in Tishri, the seventh month? Judaism has several different "new years," a concept which may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American "new year" starts in January, but the new "school year" starts in September, and many businesses have "fiscal years" that start at various times of the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).