B"H (May G-d be Blest) Likrat Rosh Hashana TavShinAyinVav (In honor if Rosh Hashana, 5775)
What is Rosh Hashana?
And what do you do on those days?
Many people have turned to me with questions, so I thought that Lekrat Rosh Hashana (in honor of Rosh Hashana) I might be able to put my limited knowledge before you and hope to be of some service.
Rosh Hashana occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashana means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.
There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, 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 name "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 Teru'ah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.
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, teru'ah, 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 about 10 seconds minimum. Click the shofar above to hear an approximation of the sound of Tekiah Shevarim-Teruah Tekiah. The Torah (or the Bible, as it is widely referred to) gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar's sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath.
No work of any kind is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in a synagogue, where the regular daily Teffila (prayer) is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayerbook called the Machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive changes for these holidays.
Another observance during this holiday is eating "simanim", literally "signs". these signs are symbols for good wishes for the new year. one of these simanim is an apple dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. I highly recommend it. It's yummy. More simanim are made off of puns and Jewish midrashim (part of the Oral Law), like eating pomegranate seeds, beets and more.
Another religious practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Torah, but is a long-standing custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana, before afternoon services.
Religious services for the holiday focus on the concept of G-d's sovereignty.
The common greeting at this time is, instead of the usual "Shalom", meaning "Peace onto you", 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 and sealed for a good year."
You may notice that the Torah speaks of Rosh Hashanah as occurring on the first day of the seventh month. 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 Hashana) is the new year for years.
And with these new insights, I wish you all a wonderful year, full of spirituality, health and simkha (happiness).
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