What is Rosh Hashanah?

By Ashlee Peck Premium

This year, Rosh Hashanah falls September 20th through 22nd.  While most people are aware of the holiday, many don’t know what is actually being celebrated. Let’s take a closer look at the Jewish New Year!

Rosh Hashanah Jewish New Year History Explained

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, the celebration of the creation of the universe.  It actually means “head of the year”. This year, it begins at sundown on September 20th and continues through nightfall on September 22nd. It is believed that your actions during Rosh Hashanah will have a significant impact on the upcoming year.

The Biblical name for the holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה‎), literally “day [of] shouting/blasting”. This comes from the fact that the central observance of the holiday is the sounding a hollowed-out ram’s horn, known as a shofar, as prescribed in the Torah, which prescribes to “raise a noise”. The first 30 blasts of the shofar are blown following the Torah reading during morning services, and as many as 70 additional are blown during (and immediately after) the Musaf service, adding up to 100 blasts over the course of the Rosh Hashanah morning services.

During Rosh Hashanah, much of the day is spent at the Synagog. Other customs observed for the holiday include special greetings, the lighting of candles, and visiting a body of water to perform the Tashlich ceremony, where sins are ceremonially cast into the water.

Festive meals are another important observance during Rosh Hashanah, and are held each night and day. Eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey, and challah dipped in honey and raisins, are now a tradition, hoping thereby to evoke a “sweet new year”. Many people eat parts of the head of a fish, in the hope that “we be a head and not a tail”, while some eat pomegranates, giving voice to a wish that their “merits be many like the [seeds of the] pomegranate”.

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Jewish High Holidays, and falls just a week before Yom Kippur.