This year’s Jewish New Year celebrations started at sundown last night and continue until sunset on Tuesday.
Each year, 163 days after Passover, the Jewish community celebrates Rosh Hashanah. This festival marks the beginning of the ‘High Holy Days’ leading up to Yom Kippur.
The festival, called Rosh Hashanah, is a mix of celebration and solemnity. As with January 1st each year, it marks the end of something old and looks forward to something new. The name “Rosh Hashanah” actually means “Head of the Year.” And so it is believed that, just like the head controls the body, people’s actions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year.
In Jewish history, the festival is also linked with remembering the creation of the world, and particularly the creation of Adam and Eve. This is what adds to the dual celebration and solemnity. Some of the prayers used on Rosh Hashanah each year reinforce this:
- Jewish people believe that “all inhabitants of the world pass before God like a flock of sheep”, and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise”.
- But it is also a joyous day when God is proclaimed as King of the Universe. At Rosh Hashanah Jewish people express a renewed desire to accept His kingship afresh.
Jewish people celebrate with candle lighting in the evenings. If at all possible, they will not work. A big part of Rosh Hashanah involves coming together with friends and family over food. Traditional festival recipes include apples and honey, pomegranate and Gefilte Fish. Braided egg bread called Challah, is also a popular dish. The bread is shaped into spirals or circles around the eggs to represent continuity.
Prayer services in the synagogue will include the sounding of the shofar on both mornings. The shofar is an instrument made out of a ram’s horn. The blowing of the shofar is not just a tradition, but actually a commandment The blowing of the shofar represents the trumpet blast that is sounded at a king’s coronation, and so is a remoinder to Jews that God is their king. Its plaintive cry also serves as the call to repentance.
A Rosh Hashanah greeting:
Shana Tova – may you be inscribed and sealed for the next year whatever it beholds