5 Things to Know About Rosh Hashanah

1. What does Rosh Hashanah mean?

Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.” While it’s actually observed on the first two days of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar, nevertheless, this date marks the Jewish New Year.

2. What Does Rosh Hashanah Commemorate?

Rosh Hashanah is traditionally seen as the date when the world was created, more specifically the sixth day of Creation, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.

3. Why Do We Blow the Shofar?

The essential mitzvah (commandment) of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar. The shofar is generally made from a hollowed out ram’s horn that is then blown like a trumpet. While the Bible gives no specific reason for the practice, according to the Oral tradition the sound represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king, a call to repentance, as well as referencing back to the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac.

4. What’s to Eat?

Many have the custom to eat foods symbolic of what they hope to experience in the coming year. The most common is the dipping of bread and apples into honey, which is meant to signify our wishes for a sweet new year. It is also customary to eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, in hope that in the coming year we will be as full of good deeds as the pomegranate is of seeds.

4. What do You Say?

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is “Shana Tovah” which loosely translates as “Happy New Year.” This is a shorter version of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem,” which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

5) Why is it called Judgment Day?

Jewish tradition teaches that Rosh Hashanah is also the Day of Judgment. On the very first Rosh Hashanah Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, where upon G-d judged them and forgave them. Just as they were judged by Him on this day and were forgiven, so too their descendants will be judged on this day. On Rosh Hashanah, G-d is said to judge the fate of every person for the upcoming year on whether they will be inscribed in the “Book of Life” or the “Book of Death”. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Repentance, during which Jews reflect upon their actions over the past year and seek forgiveness for their transgressions in hopes of influencing G-d’s final judgment on Yom Kippur.