The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, translated as “the head of the year”. The holiday begins on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which corresponds to the secular calendar, during September or early October. Rosh Hashanah is a time of prayer, t’shuvah (repentance) , and self-reflection. We consider the past year, and look for ways to improve ourselves, better support our communities, and better relationships in the year to come.
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
Ten days after the head of the new year (Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur or also known as, The Day of Atonement takes place. It is considered the most important holy day of the Jewish year. It is tradition to ask for forgiveness from others, seek to forgive those who have hurt us. On Yom Kippur we take a personal moral inventory by refraining from eating and drinking, spending the day in prayer, and turning inwards towards our best selves. If we strive to do the work of repair on Yom Kippur, we can ask to be written in the proverbial “Book of Life” for another year.
Blowing the Shofar
The shofar is a three-thousand-year-old instrument made from a ram’s horn that sounds like a trumpet. It is sounded each day during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, during the holiday, and ending Yom Kippur. There are three different blasts that are sounded each time the shofar is blown. This ritual starts with Tekiah (for assembly) one long blast, Shevarim (for march) is three short blasts, and lastly Teruah (for battle) is nine short blasts. These sounds are referred to as a “spiritual alarm clock” – some may say it is a wake-up call for people to pay attention and better ourselves, others, and things around us. It is a great mitzvah to hear the shofar on the High Holy Days.
Tashlich is a special ceremony to “throw away” our mistakes symbolically by throwing breadcrumbs into a moving body of water. This represents another step in renewal and reconciliation of the body. It helps us feel the sense of a new and fresh start to the new year. Tashlich takes place anytime between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Many special foods are served during the High Holy Days to symbolize important aspects of the holiday. These foods include apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year and round challah to represent an ever-continuing cycle of life. Pomegranates are another common food as they have 613 seeds, like the 613 commandments.
During the High Holiday season, it is customary to offer meaningful greetings that express our caring connection and hopes for a joyful and blessed new year. You can greet Jewish friends with any of these suggested phrases:
Shanah Tovah: Have a good new year!
Shanah Tovah u’metukah: Have a good and sweet new year!
G’mar Chatimah Tovah: May you be sealed in the Book of Life!
Visit https://reformjudaism.org for more High Holy Day traditions and information.