Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rosh Hashanah


Rosh Hashanah takes place on the first and second day Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. The holiday instituted  in Leviticus 23:24-25.

 The name "Rosh Hashanah" is not to be found anywhere in the Torah, however the names "Day of Remembrance" (Yom Ha'zikaron) and "Day of Shofar Blowing" (Yom Tru'ah) refer to this holiday. Rosh means "head", Rishon means "first" and Shana means "year". The name then literally means "head of the year" or "first of the year". Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. But this can be a bit misleading, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah and the American new Year, for the Jewish New Year is one of the holiest days f the year and the American New Year is for drinking and football.

  There is one important similarity between the two New Years: Americans use the New Year to plan for a better life, making resolutions. Likewise, theJewish New Year is a time to begin looking at mistakes of the past year, ask for forgiveness (slicha) from those who may have been hurt (intentionally or not). Jews also ask for the absolution of their vows (hatarat nedarim) which enables the Jews to enter the New Year with a clean slate.

   A ram's horn called a shofar  is blown somewhat like a trumpet. Hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue is one of the most important observance of this holiday. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are 4 different different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, 3 one second notes rising in tone; teruah a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds  and tekiah gedolah , the final blast in the set, which lasts at a minimum of 10 seconds.  The shofar is not blown if thenew Year falls on the Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath).

 No work is allowed on Rosh Hashanah. Much of this day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is expanded. There is a special prayerbook called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the liturgical challenges of the holidays. 

 On Rosh Hashanah day, usually before services,it is a custom to walk to a body of flowing water,preferably one that has live fish, say a special prayer and and symbolically empty their pockets to cast off their sins. Small pieces of bread are put into the pocket to cast off. This is known as "tashlikh" (casting off).

Here are some customs that are observed during Rosh Hashanah:

 Apple dipped in honey (tapu'ac bid'vash) : symbolizes the wish for a sweet year.     

 Round challah (chala agula) : It is baked in a circle, unbraided, so that the wish of the coming year will be complete & will go smoothly. It is also dipped in honey.

Head of a fish ( rosh shel dag) The head of the fish is eaten and the Jews ask to be like the head (leader) and not the tail (follower). Fish is also a symbol for abundant increase.

Pomegranate (rimon) This fruit, which becomes ripe this time of year. As legend has it the pomegranate has 613 seeds, like the number of mitzvot in the Torah.The fruit is ate and the person ask that their merit increase like the seed of the pomegranate.

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