Beginning of the Hebrew Year
Rosh Hashanah Summary
Date: First 2 days of the month of Tishri.
Duration: Two days observed by Orthodox Jews.
Names: Yom Teruah (Day of Blowing of the Shofar); Yom HaZikkaron (Day of Remembrance); Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment); together with Yom Kippur it is known as Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe).
Source: "Speak to Bnei Yisrael, saying, 'In the seventh month, on the first of the month, shall be for you a [day of] rest, a remembrance of the sounding [of the shofar], a holy convocation'" (VaYikra 23:24).
General Theme: As the new year begins, G-d judges people for the coming year. In order to judge us fairly, G-d remembers and weighs all of our acts of the past year before giving final verdict. Rosh Hashanah also commemorates the birthday of the world. Rosh Hashanah is a time of renewal, a time for admitting our mistakes and asking for forgiveness. It is a time for self-examination, new resolutions, and earnest efforts at correcting our faults.
Traditional Foods: Round challah, suggesting G-d's crown, and apples dipped in honey, expressing the wish for a sweet and fruitful year.
Customs: Festival candles are lit at sunset in the home and the following blessing is recited:
Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel (Shabbat v'shel) Yom Tov.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of (Shabbat and of) the Festival.
The blessing over the wine (Kiddush) for Rosh Hashanah is recited before eating. This is followed by the reciting of the Shehecheyanu, the prayer for the gift of life that is recited to usher in the festivals. The Shehecheyanu is often said when eating a new fruit for the first time in a season. Below is this blessing:
Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam Shehecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Apples are dipped in honey, symbolically expressing the hope that sweetness will enter the lives of all Jews in the coming year. The following blessing is recited:
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Hashem Elokeinu v'Elokei avoteinu shetechadesh aleinu shanah tovah umetukah.
May it be Your desire, Hashem our G-d, G-d of our ancestors, to renew for us a sweet and good year.
The blessing over the bread (HaMotzi) is recited over a round challah in the shape of a king's crown:
Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who brings forth the bread from the earth.
During the synagogue services, the Rabbi and the Cantor (and congregants who follow this custom) wear white kittels (garments/robes). The color white is a symbol of purity and renewal and is reminiscent of the words read on Rosh Hashanah: "Come, now, let us reason together, says Hashem. If your sins are like scarlet they will become as white as snow; if they have become red as crimson, they will become white as wool" (Yeshayahu 1:18). It is also Jewish custom to replace the colored Ark Curtain, Torah Mantles, and Reader's Table cover with white ones.
When greeting people, it is customary to use the phrase, "L'shanah tovah tikateyvu," meaning, "May you be inscribed for a good year." This phrase also appears on Jewish New Year greeting cards, which are often sent to friends and family. Other traditional greetings include "Shanah Tovah" (Have a good year) and "Ketivah vechatimah tovah" (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).
The Shofar (Ram's Horn) is sounded during services (except on the Shabbat), awakening us to repentance.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in the afternoon (or on the second day in the afternoon if the first day is a Shabbat), Jews customarily gather at a nearby stream or river to symbolically cast away their sins. This ceremony is called Tashlich (cast off), and includes the verse, "You will cast (vetashlich) all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micha 7:19). Some people visit the graves of departed family members before Rosh Hashanah, during the month of Elul.