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How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

by Rabbi Shais Taub

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Laws and Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Shofar


The unique 'call of the day' for Rosh Hashanah is the Biblical commandment1 to hear the sound of the Shofar. The Shofar is sounded during the morning services on both days2 of Rosh Hashanah (so long as it is not Shabbat).


The Torah doesn’t give a reason or explain the connection between the Shofar and the New Year; it simply decrees that it is to be sounded on that date. However, it is understood, that there is an underlying connection in that the sound of the shofar is a wake up call that rouses us to pay heed, examine our actions of the past year, and commit to making a fresh start.3 (See also Why do we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah?)


Prayer


Not surprisingly, Rosh Hashanah is also a day of prolonged and fervent prayer. The services are significantly longer than the normal Shabbat or holiday prayers, involving extra prayers not recited any other time throughout the year. Many of the prayers speak of G-d’s kingship over the world and proclaim His sovereignty. We ask G-d to rule over the world and to take care of His creation. And we, for our part, show our true commitment to spend the coming year in a meaningful way and to intensify our relationship with G-d.


Since Rosh Hashanah sets the tone for the entire coming year, we are especially careful on this day to engage only in holy activities
Since Rosh Hashanah sets the tone for the entire coming year, we are especially careful on this day to engage only in holy activities. Many people try to spend every free minute on Rosh Hashanah reciting Psalms.4


Festivities 


Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Tov, and is observed as a day of rest. We do not work or attend to our mundane needs. Rather, we spend the entire two days in prayer and celebration.


Like Judaism itself, Rosh Hashanah is not restricted to the synagogue but celebrated in the home as well. Holiday candles are kindled both nights of the holiday (see blessings here). On both nights, and during both days, we have a special holiday meal, and a special Rosh Hashanah Kiddush is recited at all four holiday meals. On the second night it is preferable to have, and eat, a "new fruit", one we haven't eaten yet this season.


There are many other customs observed on Rosh Hashanah, like eating certain foods (such as apples dipped in honey) as a harbinger of a sweet new year; wishing one another the traditional blessing: "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year"; and visiting a body of water to perform the Tashlich ceremony.


Browse through the rest of the questions in our Rosh Hashanah section for detailed explanations, insights and essays about Rosh Hashanah.

Footnotes

  • 1. Leviticus 23: 23-25; Numbers 29: 1-6.
  • 2. Unlike other holidays, Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday even in Israel. See http://www.askmoses.com/article.html?h=283&o=19380. (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/619,2079189/How-is-Rosh-Hashanah-celebrated.html)
  • 3. Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 3:4. See also "Why do we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah" (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/619,2079189/How-is-Rosh-Hashanah-celebrated.html)
  • 4. In fact, there are those who have a custom of not speaking any words on the two days of Rosh Hashanah that are not words of prayer or Torah study!

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Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » About

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
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.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
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.