L’Shana Tova! It’s Rosh Hashanah #5780
Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday, also known as the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two “High Holy Days” in the Jewish religion.
The sounding of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The ancient instrument’s plaintive cry serves as a call to repentance and a reminder to Jews that God is their king. Tradition requires the shofar blower to play four sets of notes on Rosh Hashanah: tekiah, a long blast; shevarim, three short blasts; teruah, nine staccato blasts; and tekiah gedolah, a very long blast. Because of this ritual’s close association with Rosh Hashanah, the holiday is also known as Yom Teruah—the day of the sounding of the shofar.
After religious services are over, many Jews return home for a festive meal steeped in symbolism and tradition. Some choose to wear new or special clothing and to adorn their tables with fine linens and place settings in recognition of Rosh Hashanah’s significance. The meal typically begins with the ceremonial lighting of two candles and features foods that represent positive wishes for the new year.
Customs and Symbols of Rosh Hashanah
Apples and honey: One of the most popular Rosh Hashanah customs involves eating apple slices dipped in honey, sometimes after saying a special prayer. Ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties, and the honey signifies the hope that the new year will be sweet. Rosh Hashanah meals usually include an assortment of sweet treats for the same reason.
Round challah: On Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) and other holidays, Jews eat loaves of the traditional braided bread known as challah. On Rosh Hashanah, the challah is often baked in a round shape to symbolize either the cyclical nature of life or the crown of God. Raisins are sometimes added to the dough for a sweet new year.
Tashlich: On Rosh Hashanah, some Jews practice a custom known as tashlich (“casting off”), in which they throw pieces of bread into a flowing body of water while reciting prayers. As the bread, which symbolize the sins of the past year, is swept away, those who embrace this tradition are spiritually cleansed and renewed.
“L’shana tovah”: Jews greet each other on Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew phrase “L’shana tovah,” which translates to “for a good year.” This is a shortened version of the Rosh Hashanah salutation “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (“May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year”).