Rosh Ha-shanah, the Jewish New Year, is one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. Literally meaning “head of the year,” Rosh Ha-shanah begins the observance of the Days of Awe. Jewish belief has it that on Rosh Ha-Shanah God opens the Book of Life for the coming year. During the 10 days of the Days of Awe, Jews are supposed to contemplate the three principles of prayer, charity, and penitence, so as to “avert the evil decree” and be “inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.” God closes the Book of Life, sealing one’s fate for the coming year, in this case 5778, on the last day of the Days of Awe, Yom Kippur.
Here are a few facts about the High Holy Days:
- Many Jews do not work on Rosh Ha-shanah. It is simply that sacred a holiday.
- Since the Bible says, “it was evening, it was morning …” Jewish days begin at sundown prior. This year, the first evening of Rosh Ha-shanah falls on Wednesday evening, September 20.
- The holiday is observed for only one day in Israel. Outside of Israel, the rabbis of the diaspora wanted to make certain that the community observed the holiday for the entire time that it would have been observed at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the rabbis decreed that certain one-day holidays are to be observed for two days outside of Israel. Fast days, like Yom Kippur, the last day of the Days of Awe, are observed for only one day because the rabbis realized that it would be much too difficult for the average person to go without eating or drinking (or working) for two days straight.
- On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Ha-shanah, many Jews will go to a body of flowing water and empty the contents of their pockets into the water to symbolically cast away their sins.
- Although most Jewish holidays are observed in family units, Rosh Ha-shanah and Yom Kippur are observed with lengthy communal prayers in synagogues.
- However, Jews are never ones to forget the importance of a family meal to celebrate a holiday. Not only is family time important, but each holiday tends to have special foods and even more particularly than that, the Jews of each country tend to have foods special to the observance of that holiday in that country.
- The High Holy Days are a time of sweet foods. In general, round challahs (an egg bread), round challahs with raisins, apples, honey, carrots and pomegranates are associated with Rosh Ha-shanah. It is hoped that one will be “inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet year,” hence the apples, raisins, carrots and honey.
- A head of a fish is served (and sometimes eaten) rather than the tail. This custom expresses one’s intention to meet the world with one’s head.
- A pomegranate is eaten, symbolizing the desire to have a year full of good deeds (mitzvot) just as a pomegranate is filled with many luscious seeds.
- Carrots are mixed with sweet potatoes to create an even sweeter dish called tzimmes, also to celebrate the joys of a sweet year.
- On Rosh Ha-shanah it is customary not to eat foods which are sour or tart, thus there is no horseradish served with the gefilte fish.
- It is also customary not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts is the same as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for sin.
On behalf of the entire Sun City Shadow Hills Association, we want to wish our neighbors of the Jewish faith, a Happy Rosh Hashanah.
By the Information Advisory Committee