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What is Rosh Hashanah?

According to the traditional Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah is the start of a new year. This year, Rosh Hashana takes place on Sunday, September 25th, at sunset. It’s a time of celebration, joy, and jubilee, where friends and family come together to eat great food and enjoy each other’s company.

Rosh Hashanah is rich in history and tradition and is a well-known holiday. Although it’s as serious a holiday as any, not many people know a lot about Rosh Hashanah. In this article, we go over what the holiday is, the history, tradition, and celebrations. But first, the facts!

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Simply put, Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday that signifies the beginning of a new year. The exact date varies every year, as it is based on the Hebrew Calendar, where it begins on the first day of the seventh month. However, Rosh Hashanah is almost always in September or October. Rosh Hashanah means “Head of the Year” in Hebrew, so one can conclude it’s a new year’s celebration!

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection that reaches its peak at Yom Kippur. This is also known as the Day of Atonement. This celebration period in the Jewish calendar represents the anniversary of human creation and marks the close relationship between humans and God, the creator. Rosh Hashanah is also described in the Torah as “a day of sounding” and is signified by the sounding of the shofar, an instrument made of a ram’s horn. This means the start of the “10 Days of Repentance” which ends with Yom Kippur.

The History of Rosh Hashanah

The origins of Rosh Hashanah are seen through biblical times. The tradition is said to have been adopted by the Babylonians and imbued with Jewish significance through the rabbis. Even though the holiday is in the seventh month, it became a rabbinic tradition to be at the beginning of the year.

According to Jewish tradition, God judges all creatures during the 10 days of awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During this time, God decides whether each creature dies or lives to see the new year. The Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death. As a result, some Jews consider this holiday a time of prayer, good deeds, and reflection.

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish religion has many traditions when it comes to celebrating Rosh Hashanah. The holiday is observed for either one or two days, where work is prohibited and spending time at the synagogue. The observant Jewish person wear white to represent purity, and they sound the shofar, or rams horn, to signify the start of the new year.

Along with the traditions mentioned previously, it is common for many to celebrate by just spending time with friends and family, eating great food, and rejoicing in the sphere of new beginnings. The feast usually begins with the lighting of two candles and features foods that represent positive wishes for the new year.

Source: Emma Lazarus (2022) When is Rosh Hashanah, https://www.almanac.com/content/when-is-rosh-hashanah

Source: Oren Rosenfeld (2022) Rosh Hashanah, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/rosh-hashanah-history

Source: My Jewish Learning (2022) Rosh Hashanah 101, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/rosh-hashanah-101/

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