Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy Days in the Jewish Calendar. It is a two day holiday. Rosh Hashanah is the birth of the Universe and the day G-d created Adam and Eve. The Hebrew dates Rosh Hashanah are on are on the first and second day of Tishrei, which is the 7th month, not the first. This is usually between September and October, depending on the year.
History of Rosh Hashanah
This holiday is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. It appears under different names in the Tenach (the Hebrew Bible). The Torah does mention a sacred occasion that starts at sundown on the first day of the 7th month of the Jewish calendar around the time Rosh Hashanah falls. This is also when the Hebrew year increases, not on the first month.
Its also called Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance), Yom Teruah (Day of Shofar Blowing), and Yom Hadin (Day of Judgement).
It is thought that the holiday was established during the sixth century BCE. The phrase Rosh Hashanah showed up for the first time in the Mishna, a Jewish code of law compiled in 200 A.C.E.
According to tradition, G-d judges all creatures during the 10 days of the High Holy Days, also called the Days of Awe. This is between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. G-d decides who lives and who dies in the coming year. This is what is meant by people saying “may you be inscribed in the book of life.”
How Rosh Hashanah is Observed
Rosh Hashanah is very different than the secular New Year. A lot of non Jews do misunderstand this. Rosh Hashanah is a very contemplative holiday. It is not a working holiday. Most Jews spend the day in synagogue. There is normally a separate prayer book used during the high holidays than the rest of the year.
This is the time of year that the shofar is sounded. This is a rams horn that is used as a trumpet. It is an essential part of the high holy days. It is used to call to repentance and a reminder to Jews that G-d is their leader. Tradition requires the shofar blower to play four sets of notes on Rosh Hashanah. They are tekiah (a long blast), shevarim (3 short blasts), teruah (9 staccato blasts) and tekiah gedolah (a very long blast).
After religious services, Jews return home for a festive meal with a lot of symbolism. Some chose to wear new or special clothing and decorate tables with fine significance. The meal begins with lighting of the two candles and foods that symbolize a sweet new year.
Traditions of Rosh Hashanah
Apples and honey: This is to symbolize a sweet new year. Honey cake is often made for the same symbol. We make honey cake every year. Bug received pure honey from Israel from the Rabbi for his birthday, so we will be making honey cake with it. In ancient Jewish herbalism, apples were believed to have healing properties. The honey signifies a new hope that the new year will be sweet.
Round Challah: Challah is traditional bread usually eating during Jewish celebrations. It is fluffy yellow bread made with eggs. Round challah symbolizes the circle of life or the crown of G-d. Raisins are sometimes added to symbolizes a sweet new year.
Tachlich (casting off): This tradition is when pieces of bread into a flowing body of water while saying prayers. The bread symbolizes sins of the past year. The water sweeps it away. This is an act of spiritual cleansing.
The correct greeting for Rosh Hashanah is “L’Shana Tova.” This translates to “for a good year.” This is shortened from the phrase that is normally said during Rosh Hashanah Prayer,”L’shanah nova tikatev v’taihatem (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.)