Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is one the holiest holidays of Judaism. Etymologically, it translated to “head of the year” or “first of the year”. The festival begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. Ideally, it falls during September or October. In the Bible, this festival is mentioned as Yom Teruah. This year, it begins on September 18th and ends on the evening of September 20th. The dates vary every year.
Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the 10 Days of Awe. In these 10 days, the Jews introspect and repent. Their repentance culminates on Yom Kippur, which is also known as the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the holiest of days in the Jewish culture. They are also known as the “High Holy Days”.
History and Significance of Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is considered to be well established by the 6th century B.C. However, the phrase Rosh Hashanah was visible for the first time in Mishna, a Jewish code of law compiled in 200 A.D. Further, it is mentioned in the Bible under different names. Although, it is not mentioned anywhere in Judaism’s religious text, Torah.
Generally, the Hebrew calendar begins with Nisan as the first month. But, this festival occurs in Tishrei, as it is the month when God created the world. As per the older traditions, God judges every human being in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Based on their deeds, he decided who lives and who dies in the next year. Hence, observant Jews consider these 10 days as a superior period of prayer, good deeds, growth, and amendments.
Rituals and Symbols
Preparations for both the holy days begin a whole month before the holidays. In this month, the shofar is blown every morning to wake everyone up physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some of the customs include:
Apples and Honey: After saying a few prayers, the Jews eat apples dipped in honey. They believe that apples have healing qualities, and the honey brings hope in the new year.
Round Challah: Unlike the other festivals, the Jews bake the traditional braided bread or challah in a round shape. It signifies the cyclical nature of life or God’s crown.
Tashlich: Some Jews throw pieces of bread into the flowing river while reciting prayers. The bread symbolizes their sins. Those who follow this ritual are considered to be spiritually cleansed and renewed.
L’shanah tovah: The Jews greet each other with this phrase, which roughly translated to “have a good year”. It is the shortened version of L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).
The President and the First Lady sent their wishes to all the Jews residing and celebrating Rosh Hashanah in America. Further, he spoke about the agreements between America and Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. He mentioned that the leaders were hosted in the White House, and they signed some peaceful deals. The complete message is available on the official website of the White House.