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  • Rosh Hashanah

    Rosh Hashanah

    The Jewish New Year

    Rosh Hashanah Lessons | Rosh Hashanah Teacher | Rosh Hashanah Tutoring | New York | Florida | Massachusetts

    The first day of the Hebrew month of Tishre, is the beginning of “The Ten Days of Awe,”(Yamim Noraim), and is also the Jewish New Year. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown, Wednesday, September 4, 2013. This date corresponds to the Hebrew date of the 1st day of Tishre, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. Outside of Israel the holiday lasts until sundown, Friday while in Israel, the holiday lasts until sundown, Thursday.

    The words Rosh Hashanah, mean, “head, or beginning of the year.” According to our tradition, it is said that’s when God created the world. All of us know that the world isn’t just 5,700 years old (we know the earth is about five billion years old), but maybe it is the beginning of our history, beginning with a man by the name of Adam and his wife, Eve.

    Rosh Hashanah has other names as well, but what they all have in common is that the old year is leaving us and the New Year is beginning. It is a time of reflection, (like looking in a mirror and seeing behind us), looking back on what and how we acted the past year and how we can improve ourselves. This is a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent (ask for forgiveness) for the wrongs that we have committed against everyone, but most importantly, those closest to us.

    In the Torah, the name given to this day is Yom Teruah, or The Day of Sounding the Shofar, which is a loud reminder of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, and how we are to “wake up” and try and lead our life the way that would make our family and us proud. Some of our leaders believe Rosh Hashanah should be celebrated only in temple. I happen to disagree with that belief although spending time in temple and witnessing and listening to the Shofar being blown is an exciting and wonderful communal experience. To me, it is also a time to spend with our loved ones, taking time out of our busy schedules to reacquaint ourselves with them, and ourselves.

    As I stated briefly before, all Jewish holidays always begin on the evening before the first day. On Rosh Hashanah, we usually have a large and pleasant dinner with members of our family and friends on the “eve,”(the night before), because it is our custom to invite anyone who has no place to go to join us. Before dinner we recite the “Sheh-hech-e-ah-new” blessing, plus the blessings over bread (a special challah that is round and braided, signifying the endlessness of the life cycle), the special holiday Kiddush over wine and the blessing over the candles. But no matter where or how much we celebrate, or what traditions we follow on Rosh Hashanah, we are to remember that not only is God judging us; our loved ones are judging us; and most important, we are judging ourselves.

    If you go to temple you will be impressed with the four different sounds of the Shofar. They are:

    • Tekia – One Long Blast
    • Teruah – Nine Staccato (Short and Cut Off) Blasts
    • Shevarim – Three Short Blasts
    • Tekiah Gedolah – One very long blast (this one everyone gets a kick out of because the Shofar blower blows Tekiah Gedolah for as long as he or she can)

    In the fourth book of the Torah, The Book of Numbers (29:1) we are commanded, “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye (you) shall have a holy convocation (assembly): ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the horn (Shofar) unto you.”

    As a matter of fact, the words Rosh Hashanah are not mentioned in the Torah. This holiday is called, Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the Shofar). There are some beautiful customs associated with this holiday. One such custom is dipping an apple into honey and wishing for a sweet year. Another custom is wishing family and friends, “L’shanah Tova” (a Good Year). Another custom, observed is called, “Tashlich,” (which means, casting or throwing off) where more traditional Jews go to a body of water on Rosh Hashanah day and throw crumbs into the water, symbolically throwing away their sins. Generally, most Reform and Conservative Jews don’t follow this custom.

    One final fact about Rosh Hashanah is that although the Torah tells us to celebrate this holiday for only one day it is observed for two days outside of Israel. There are many theories about the rationale behind this custom, but not to worry; it’s much better celebrating with family and friends for two days as opposed to one.

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