ראש השנה

ROSH HASHANAH

רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is one of four Jewish new years. It is the most well-known of them all and is thought by many to be THE Jewish new year. רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is the first of the  עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה  (Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah) ten days of repentance ending with יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur.)  Together, רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) and יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) are known as the יָמִים נוֹרָאִים‎ (Yamim Noraim) or the Days of Awe.

Story

רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is called "the Birthday of the World," but it is actually believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam, the first person, who was created on the sixth day.

The name "רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) " does not appear in the תּוֹרָה (Torah). The book of וַיִּקְרָא (Vayikra - Leviticus) tells us about a festival on the first day of the seventh month called "זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה (Zikhron Teru'ah)" "a day of remembering with the blowing of horns." (Leviticus 23:24)

 

Speak to the children of Israel saying, 'in the seventh month, the first day of the month shall be a special day of rest for you; a memorial announced with the blasts of horns. A holy time.' (ויקרא כג:כד)

Season

Although רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is the New Year, it isn't the beginning of the Jewish calendar year. There are four new years and רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is the third on the Jewish calendar. The first, and the beginning of the Jewish calendar year is the first day of נִיסַן (Nisan), which falls in the spring; the second is the first day of אֶלוֹל (Elul), which falls in late summer; the third is רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah), which falls on the first day of the month of תשרי (Tishrei) in the fall; and the fourth is טו בִּשְבַט (Tu B'Shevat), which falls in mid-winter. Learn more about the four new years.

רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is also the beginning of the עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה (Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah) - the ten days of repentance.

Key Words

Happy New Year - שָׁנָה טוֹבָה
repentance - תְּשׁוּבָה
year - שָׁנָה

The head of the year - רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה

apples - תָּפוּחִים

honey - דְבַש

ram's horn - ‎שׁוֹפָר

Prayers

We begin רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) by lighting the festival candles with a special בְּרָכָה‎  (blessing):

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר  קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav,

v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through the commandments and commands us to kindle the festival lights.

At synagogue, we say a special blessing before hearing the שוֹפָר (shofar):

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר  קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לִשְמוֹעַ קוֹל שוֹפָר.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav,

v'tzivanu lishmoa kol shofar.

Blessed are You, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through the commandments and commands us to hear the voice of the shofar.

When you hear the שוֹפָר (shofar) for the first time you add this special blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם ֿ שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, she'he'che'yanu v'ki'yemanu v'higianu

lazman hazeh.

Blessed are you, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and helped us to reach this moment.

In addition to our regular festival services רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) has a number of unique and beautiful prayers that we share. There are also a number of special tunes for the רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) prayers.

Rituals

רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) customs include sounding the שׁוֹפָר (shofar)  and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a "sweet new year".

Like on שַׁבָּת (Shabbat), we have special festive meals with wine and challah. Many people choose to try a new fruit or food for the first time on רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah). 

 

Some people wear a קִיטְל (kittel) on רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah). A קִיטְל (kittel) is a white robe symbolizing purity.

 

Learn more about the customs and traditions of רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah).

© 2016 by Rabbi David Paskin

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