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What is Rosh Hashanah?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Rosh Hashanah is a divinely prescribed holiday celebrating the Jewish New Year, the judgment day for all of creation, and the anniversary of creation. It is also one (of two) "High Holidays" (the other being Yom Kippur), and best known for the Shofar, the highlight of this High Holiday.

In its original form Rosh Hashanah was a one day Holiday, but it is traditionally celebrated (in and out of Israel) as a two day holiday.

Divine Ordination

Leviticus 23:24 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, it shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of [Israel through] the Shofar blast a holy occasion."

This is not just the source for the holiday, but it is also its most beautiful aspect. G-d reaches out, so to speak, and invites the Jewish people to spend a Holy-day with Him. The fulfillment of His will gives the person the opportunity to connect with Him. How divine!

Human Celebration

This day marks the beginning of the new year. On its simplest level it calls for a new Jewish calendar year. But more importantly it is when we renew our acceptance of G-d’s sovereignty by invoking G-d to be our King again for the new year. It is also the day when G-d reviews our actions of the past year and subsequently decides our fate for the coming year.

It is thus not only the "New Years", but also the Head (Heb. Rosh) of the year.

It is not an accident of fate, nor the result of a board meeting, that set this day as the New Years. This day marks the beginning of existence. Every year on this day we celebrate one more anniversary of creation.

Every year on this holiday we relive that very experience: The fate of all existence (creation) is decided. G-d’s sovereignty (Creator) is reaffirmed, and every thing is "New".

It is indeed a time to reflect, resolve, and rejoice.

(See also "When is Rosh Hashanah?" and "How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?")


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Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Leviticus
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.