As we take a step into the fall season, we are entering a time of many important holidays. Some secular, some religious, some strictly historical and some a cultural blend. Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday celebrated this year between Oct. 2nd and October 4th. Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of creation as it correlates to the Judeo-Christian beliefs — God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman and subsequently humanity became as we now know it.
Some things to note about Rosh Hashanah:
- It is the first of all the Jewish High Holy Days — It is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, and takes place in the first 2 days of the Jewish year.
- The literal translation is “Head of the Year.”
- It is a time of deep prayer, longer than on other Shabbat days or holidays.
- Religious actions represent reflections for the year, a ridding oneself of sin, and seeking forgiveness from others and God’s blessing for the coming time.
- A Shofar is used throughout the holiday amongst prayers.
- It should be noted that you will often see “God” spelled in an incomplete way, such as “G-d”. This is to protect His name from any possibility of defacement or damage depending on the medium in which His name is used.
- The first five books of the bible, known as the Torah, refer to this day as the Yom Teruah, or the “Day of Shofar Blowing.”
There are certain rituals and elements to this holiday which are essential. Greetings will change depending on what date you run across someone, and whether or not it is a male or female. Candles will be lit by women and girls along with recited blessings. As mentioned above, there is a time of “casting” sins into the water, known as Tashlich. Short prayers and ceremony are followed at this time to symbolically unite the individual with the action, and the refreshment that comes thereafter.
As in many religious settings, there is a book of prayer for the holiday known as the Machzor which is used along with the Shofar. Stories are read from the bible during the first 2 days, such as the birth of Isaac and his subsequent near-sacrifice by father Abraham.
As in most holidays, food is also of utmost importance and with special meaning. Meals include a special bread eaten with honey to display the wish for a sweet coming year – honey and sweet food are used throughout this time to further stress this wish. Different communities and families will integrate certain dishes in symbolic gestures, and it should be noted that bitter foods will be avoided to dissuade a difficult year. As mentioned earlier, Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” and thus some people will eat the heads of certain animals to associate with this concept.
Rosh Hashanah is a deeply religious and symbolic holiday, rich in tradition, pure motives, and culture. As we proceed with the year, we should all take some time to reflect on our lives – what we hope for the future and what we can improve upon from the past, how to give respect to others, and how to keep ourselves grounded despite the rapid pace of life around us. We at CAI wish you a happy Rosh Hashanah, and we look forward to discovering more cultures and holidays with you this coming season!