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Rosh Hashanah 101

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Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year. This year, Rosh Hashanah began at sundown on September 13 and ends at nightfall on September 15.

Here is a rundown of some of the facts:

  • Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew. It is a time for reflection and repentance.
  • It is referred to as the “day of judgment” or the “day of repentance”.
  • According to the Talmud (central Jewish text), the world was created on the first day of Tishri which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah is considered a birthday of sorts for the world.
  • It is celebrated on the first and second days of the month of Tishri, which generally corresponds to September or October on the Gregorian calendar.
  • Rosh Hashanah begins the High Holy Days or Ten Days of Penitence, which end ten days later with Yom Kippur.
  • One of the most significant rituals during Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the Shofar, or ram’s horn. It is used as a call to repentance during the High Holy Days.
  • During this time, Jewish people attend synagogue services and refrain from working.
  • Popular practices include:
    • Wearing new clothes,
    • New haircuts,
    • Eating apples dipped in honey (symbolizing hope for a good year to come),
    • Challah bread in round loaves instead of braided loaves is dipped in honey instead of salt,
    • Pomegranates are eaten (the seeds are symbolic of the many commandments in the Torah that Jews must fulfill),
    • Walking to a river or stream to recite special prayers of penitence where, afterwards, bread crumbs are thrown into the water symbolically casting away sins.