Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the Jewish New Year, a time of prayer, self-reflection, and repentance. We review our actions during the past year, and we look for ways to improve ourselves, our communities, and our world in the year to come. The holiday marks the beginning of a 10-day period, known as the Yamim Nora-im (“Days of Awe” or “High Holidays”), ushered in by Rosh Hashanah and culminating with Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”). Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which – because of differences in the solar and lunar calendar – corresponds to September or October on the Gregorian or secular calendar.

Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (the horn of a ram), as prescribed in the Torah, attending synagogue services and reciting special liturgy about teshuva, as well as enjoying festive meals. Eating symbolic foods is now a tradition, such as apples dipped in honey, hoping to evoke a sweet new year. Another tradition in the form of food is the head of a fish symbolising the prayer: “Let us be the head, and not the tail.” and pomegranates, symbolising a fruitful year. One of its most characteristic traditions is the round challah bread symbolising the cycle of the year.

The traditional greeting of this holiday is “Shana Tova (Umetukah)” wishing a good (and sweet) year, or “A Gut Yor” coming from Yiddish. However, after Rosh HaShana ends, the greeting is switched to “Gmar Chatimah Tovah” wishing a good final signature in the book of life (or to be inscribed in the book of life) as marked by the events of Yom Kippur.