Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, which falls on the first and second days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. The celebration of this holiday is marked by both solemnity and joyfulness. The day is solemn because the world is judged for the coming year and it is joyful as this day incites hope for the future redemption of Israel. It steers in the 10 days of repentance leading to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashana literally means Beginning of the Year . Now, why does the year begin in the seventh month? Because the Jewish calendar is built on two cycles, the religious calendar begins at Spring and the civil calendar begins in Fall. In Torah, the months are only numbered, not named. Nisan is the first month of the religious calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Rosh Hashana falls within September to October.
Date of Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana extends over the first and second days of Tishrei. This is because the days in Hebrew calendar begin at sundown and Rosh Hashana begins at sundown of the 29th of Elul, the month preceding Tishrei.
The two days of Rosh Hashana are considered one long day or “Yoma Arichtah” in Aramaic. The second day of Rosh Hashana does not follow the Biblical commandment of observance on the first day.
Some communities to follow Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism observe only one day and some celebrate Rosh Hashana for two days. The Karaite Jews follow the Biblical scripture and observe only the first day of Rosh Hashana as the second day is not mentioned in the Torah. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism celebrate both the first and second days of Rosh Hashana.
How Rosh Hashana Is Observed?
Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment and the day of hope. People in this holiday ask for forgiveness, give forgiveness and resolve to lead a better life. They pray for a happy year to come. The Jews somberly repent but find joy in the mercy of God.
The Jews greet each other by saying “Shana Tova” (A good Year) or “Shana Tova Umetukah (A Good and Sweet Year) on Rosh Hashana. As God judges them for the coming year a longer greeting is ketiva ve-chatima tovah (May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year).
The Traditions Of Rosh Hashana
- Listening to the shofar blown during the lengthy prayer services
- Doing no work
- Eating holiday meals
Jewish traditions for eating in the occasion of Rosh Hashana
- Dip bread into honey as a symbol of hope that the ensuing year will be sweet
- Dipping apple into honey as a symbol of hope of sweet new year
- Jews avoid nuts because numerical value for the Hebrew word for nut is same as sin
- Observing the Tashlich ceremony where sins are symbolically cast off into the river and penitential prayers are chanted.
Thus, goes on the solemn and joyful ceremonies of Rosh Hashana.