Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה), literally meaning the "head [of] the year", is the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה), literally "day of shouting or blasting". It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days (יָמִים נוֹרָאִים Yamim Nora'im. "Days of Awe") specified by Leviticus 23:23–32 that occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere.
A shofar, symbol of the Rosh Hashanah holiday
|Official name||ראש השנה|
|Also called||Jewish New Year|
|Observances||Praying in synagogue, personal reflection, and hearing the shofar.|
|Begins||Start of first day of Tishrei|
|Ends||End of second day of Tishrei|
|2018 date||Sunset, 9 September –|
nightfall, 11 September
|2019 date||Sunset, 29 September –|
nightfall, 1 October
|2020 date||Sunset, 18 September –|
nightfall, 20 September
|2021 date||Sunset, 6 September –|
nightfall, 8 September
Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. It marks the beginning of the civil year, according to the teachings of Judaism, while the first month Nisan, the passover month, is the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman according to the Hebrew Bible, and the inauguration of humanity's role in God's world. According to one secular opinion, the holiday owes its timing to the beginning of the economic year in Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa, marking the start of the agricultural cycle.
Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram's horn), as prescribed in the Torah, following the prescription of the Hebrew Bible to "raise a noise" on Yom Teruah. Its rabbinical customs include attending synagogue services and reciting special liturgy about teshuva, as well as enjoying festive meals. Eating symbolic foods is now a tradition, such as apples dipped in honey, hoping to evoke a sweet new year.
"Rosh" is the Hebrew word for "head", "ha" is the definite article ("the"), and "shanah" means year. Thus "Rosh HaShanah" means 'head [of] the year', referring to the Jewish day of new year.
The term "Rosh Hashanah" in its current meaning does not appear in the Torah. Leviticus 23:24 refers to the festival of the first day of the seventh month as "Zikhron Teru'ah" ("[a] memorial [with the] blowing [of horns]"); it is also referred to in the same part of Leviticus as 'שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן' (shabbat shabbaton) or penultimate Sabbath or meditative rest day, and a "holy day to God". These same words are commonly used in the Psalms to refer to the anointed days. Numbers 29:1 calls the festival Yom Teru'ah, ("Day [of] blowing [the horn]"), and symbolizes a number of subjects, such as the Binding of Isaac whereby a ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, and the animal sacrifices, including rams, that were to be performed. (The term Rosh Hashanah appears once in the Bible in Ezekiel 40:1 where it means generally the time of the "beginning of the year" or is possibly a reference to Yom Kippur, but the phrase may also refer to the Hebrew month of Nisan in the spring, especially in light of Exodus 12:2, Exodus 13:3–4 where the spring month of Aviv, later renamed Nisan, is stated as being "the first month of the year" and Ezekiel 45:18 where "the first month" unambiguously refers to Nisan, the month of Passover, as made plain by Ezekiel 45:21.)
In the Siddur and Machzor Jewish prayer-books, Rosh Hashanah is also called "Yom Hazikaron" ([a] day [of] the remembrance), not to be confused with the modern Israeli holiday of the same name, which falls in spring.
Rosh Hashanah marks the start of a new year in the Hebrew calendar (one of four "new year" observances that define various legal "years" for different purposes as explained in the Mishnah and Talmud). It is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Mishnah also sets this day aside as the new year for calculating calendar years, shmita and yovel years. Jews are confident that Rosh Hashanah represents either figuratively or literally God's creation ex nihilo. However, according to Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of man.
The origin of the Hebrew New Year is connected to the beginning of the economic year in the agricultural societies of the ancient Near East. The New Year was the beginning of the cycle of sowing, growth, and harvest; the harvest was marked by its own set of major agricultural festivals. The Semites in general set the beginning of the new year in autumn, while other ancient civilizations chose spring for that purpose, such as the Persians or Greeks; the primary reason was agricultural in both cases, the time of sowing the seed and bringing in the harvest.
In Jewish law, four major New Years are observed, each one marking a beginning of sorts. The lunar month Nisan (usually corresponding to the months March–April in the Gregorian calendar) is when a new year is added to the reign of Jewish kings, and it marks the start of the year for the three Jewish pilgrimages. Its injunction is expressly stated in the Hebrew Bible: "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months" (Exo. 12:2). However, ordinary years, Sabbatical years, Jubilees, and dates inscribed on legal deeds and contracts are reckoned differently; such years begin on the first day of the lunar month Tishri (usually corresponding to the months September–October in the Gregorian calendar). Their injunction is expressly stated in the Hebrew Bible: "Three times in the year you shall keep a feast unto me… the feast of unleavened bread (Passover)… the feast of harvest (Shavuot)… and the feast of ingathering (Sukkot) which is at the departing of the year" (Exo. 23:14–16). "At the departing of the year" implies that the new year begins here.
The reckoning of Tishri as the beginning of the Jewish year began with the early Egyptians and was preserved by the Hebrew nation, being also alluded to in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 7:11) when describing the Great Deluge at the time of Noah. This began during the "second month" (Marheshvan) counting from Tishri, a view that has largely been accepted by the Sages of Israel.
The Mishnah contains the second known reference to Rosh Hashanah as the "day of judgment". In the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah, it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life and they are sealed "to live". The intermediate class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect, repent and become righteous; the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living forever".
In Jewish liturgy, Rosh Hashanah leads to Yom Kippur, which is described as "the day of judgment" (Yom ha-Din) and "the day of remembrance" (Yom ha-Zikkaron). Some midrashic descriptions depict God as sitting upon a throne, while books containing the deeds of all humanity are opened for review, and each person passes in front of Him for evaluation of his or her deeds. The Talmud provides three central ideas behind the day:
"The Holy One said, 'on Rosh Hashanah recite before Me [verses of] Sovereignty, Remembrance, and Shofar blasts (malchuyot, zichronot, shofrot): Sovereignty so that you should make Me your King; Remembrance so that your remembrance should rise up before Me. And through what? Through the Shofar.' (Rosh Hashanah 16a, 34b)" This is reflected in the prayers composed by the classical rabbinic sages for Rosh Hashanah found in all machzorim where the theme of the prayers is the strongest theme is the "coronation" of God as King of the universe in preparation for the acceptance of judgments that will follow on that day, symbolized as "written" into a Divine book of judgments, that then hang in the balance for ten days waiting for all to repent, then they will be "sealed" on Yom Kippur. The assumption is that everyone was sealed for life and therefore the next festival is Sukkot (Tabernacles) that is referred to as "the time of our joy" (z'man simchateinu).
The Yamim Nora'im are preceded by the month of Elul, during which Jews are supposed to begin a self-examination and repentance, a process that culminates in the ten days of the Yamim Nora'im known as beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with the holiday of Yom Kippur.
The shofar is traditionally blown each morning for the entire month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. The sound of the shofar is intended to awaken the listeners from their "slumbers" and alert them to the coming judgment. The shofar is not blown on Shabbat.
Rosh Hashanah is also the day of "Yom Hadin", known as Judgment day. On Yom Hadin, three books are opened, the book of life, for the righteous among the nations, the book of death, for the most evil who receive the seal of death, and the third book for the ones living in doubts with non-evil sins.
Unlike the denominations of Rabbinical Judaism, Karaite Judaism believes the Jewish New Year starts with the first month and celebrate this holiday only as it is mentioned in the Torah, that is as a day of rejoicing and shouting. Additionally, Karaites believe the adoption of "Rosh Hashanah" in place of Yom Teruah "is the result of pagan Babylonian influence upon the Jewish nation, that began during the Babylonian exile with the adoption of the Babylonian month names instead of the numbering present in the Torah (Leviticus 23; Numbers 28). Karaites allow no work on the day except what is needed to prepare food (Leviticus 23:23, 24).
Samaritans, in their interpretation of the Torah, preserve the biblical name of the festival celebrated on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei), namely Yom Teruah, and do not consider it to be a New Year's day.
Laws on the form and use of the shofar and laws related to the religious services during the festival of Rosh Hashanah are described in Rabbinic literature such as the Mishnah that formed the basis of the tractate "Rosh HaShanah" in both the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. This also contains the most important rules concerning the calendar year.
The shofar is blown in long, short, and staccato blasts that follow a set sequence:
- Teki'ah (one long sound) Numbers 10:3;
- Shevarim (three broken sounds) Numbers 10:5;
- Teru'ah (nine short sounds) Numbers 10:9;
- Teki'ah Gedolah (a very long sound) Exodus 19:16,19;
- Shevarim Teru'ah (three broken sounds followed by nine short sounds).
The shofar is blown at various instances during the Rosh Hashanah prayers, with a total of 100 blasts over the day.
Rosh Hashanah eveEdit
The evening before Rosh Hashanah day is known as Erev Rosh Hashanah ("Rosh Hashanah eve"). As with Rosh Hashanah day, it falls on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, since days of the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown. Some communities perform Hatarat nedarim (a nullification of vows) after the morning prayer services during the morning on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Elul, which ends at sundown, when Erev Rosh Hashanah commences. The mood becomes festive but serious in anticipation of the new year and the synagogue services. Many Orthodox men immerse in a mikveh in honor of the coming day.
Duration and timingEdit
Rosh Hashanah occurs 163 days after the first day of Passover (Pesach). In terms of the Gregorian calendar, the earliest date on which Rosh Hashanah can fall is September 5, as happened in 1842, 1861, 1899 and 2013. The latest Gregorian date that Rosh Hashanah can occur is October 5, as happened in 1815, 1929 and 1967, and will happen again in 2043. After 2089, the differences between the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will result in Rosh Hashanah falling no earlier than September 6. Starting in 2214, the new latest date will be October 6.
Although the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so that the first day of each month originally began with the first sighting of a new moon, since the fourth century it has been arranged so that Rosh Hashanah never falls on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday.
The Torah defines Rosh Hashanah as a one-day celebration, and since days in the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown, the beginning of Rosh Hashanah is at sundown at the end of 29 Elul. The rules of the Hebrew calendar are designed such that the first day of Rosh Hashanah will never occur on the first, fourth, or sixth day of the Jewish week (i.e., Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday). Since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the time of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, normative Jewish law appears to be that Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated for two days, because of the difficulty of determining the date of the new moon. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on a single day in Israel as late as the thirteenth century CE. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism now generally observe Rosh Hashanah for the first two days of Tishrei, even in Israel where all other Jewish holidays dated from the new moon last only one day. The two days of Rosh Hashanah are said to constitute "Yoma Arichtah" (Aramaic: "one long day"). In Reform Judaism, while most congregations in North America observe only the first day of Rosh Hashanah, some follow the traditional two-day observance as a sign of solidarity with other Jews worldwide. Karaite Jews, who do not recognize Rabbinic Jewish oral law and rely on their own understanding of the Torah, observe only one day on the first of Tishrei, since the second day is not mentioned in the Written Torah.
On Rosh Hashanah day, religious poems, called piyyutim, are added to the regular services. A special prayer book, the mahzor, is used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (plural mahzorim). A number of additions are made to the regular service, most notably an extended repetition of the Amidah prayer for both Shacharit and Mussaf. The Shofar is blown during Mussaf at several intervals. (In many synagogues, even little children come and hear the Shofar being blown.) Biblical verses are recited at each point. According to the Mishnah, 10 verses (each) are said regarding kingship, remembrance, and the shofar itself, each accompanied by the blowing of the shofar. A variety of piyyutim, medieval penitential prayers, are recited regarding themes of repentance. The Alenu prayer is recited during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah.
The Mussaf Amidah prayer on Rosh Hashanah is unique in that apart from the first and last 3 blessings, it contains 3 central blessings making a total of 9. These blessings are entitled "Malchuyot" (Kingship, and also includes the blessing for the holiness of the day as is in a normal Mussaf), "Zichronot" (Remembrance) and "Shofarot" (concerning the Shofar). Each section contains an introductory paragraph followed by selections of verses about the "topic". The verses are 3 from the Torah, 3 from the Ketuvim, 3 from the Nevi'im, and one more from the Torah. During the repetition of the Amidah, the Shofar is sounded (except on Shabbat) after the blessing that ends each section.
Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local minhag ("custom"), such as the head of a fish (to symbolize the prayer "let us be the head and not the tail").
Many communities hold a "Rosh Hashanah seder" during which blessings are recited over a variety of symbolic dishes. The blessings have the incipit "Yehi ratzon", meaning "May it be Thy will." In many cases, the name of the food in Hebrew or Aramaic represents a play on words (a pun). The Yehi Ratzon platter may include apples (dipped in honey, baked or cooked as a compote called mansanada); dates; pomegranates; black-eyed peas; pumpkin-filled pastries called rodanchas; leek fritters called keftedes de prasa; beets; and a whole fish with the head intact. It is also common to eat stuffed vegetables called legumbres yaprakes.
Some of the symbolic foods eaten are dates, black-eyed peas, leek, spinach and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud: “Let a man be accustomed to eat on New Year's Day gourds (קרא), and fenugreek (רוביא), leeks (כרתי), beet [leaves] (סילקא), and dates ( תמרי).” Pomegranates are used in many traditions, to symbolize being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds. The use of apples dipped in honey, symbolizing a sweet year, is a late medieval Ashkenazi addition, though it is now almost universally accepted. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year. From ancient to quite modern age, lamb head or fish head were served. Nowadays, gefilte fish and lekach are commonly served by Ashkenazic Jews on this holiday. On the second night, new fruits are served to warrant inclusion of the shehecheyanu blessing.
The ritual of tashlikh is performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah by Ashkenazic and most Sephardic Jews (but not by Spanish & Portuguese Jews or some Yemenites). Prayers are recited near natural flowing water, and one's sins are symbolically cast into the water. Many also have the custom to throw bread or pebbles into the water, to symbolize the "casting off" of sins. In some communities, if the first day of Rosh Hashanah occurs on Shabbat, tashlikh is postponed until the second day. The traditional service for tashlikh is recited individually and includes the prayer "Who is like unto you, O God...And You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea", and Biblical passages including Isaiah 11:9 ("They will not injure nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea") and Psalms 118:5–9, Psalms 121 and Psalms 130, as well as personal prayers. Though once considered a solemn individual tradition, it has become an increasingly social ceremony practiced in groups. Tashlikh can be performed any time until Hoshana Rabba, and some Hasidic communities perform Tashlikh on the day before Yom Kippur.
The Hebrew common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shanah Tovah (Hebrew: שנה טובה) (pronounced [ʃaˈna toˈva]), which translated from Hebrew means "[have a] good year". Often Shanah Tovah Umetukah (Hebrew: שנה טובה ומתוקה), meaning "[have a] Good and Sweet Year", is used. In Yiddish the greeting is אַ גוט יאָר "a gut yor" ("a good year") or אַ גוט געבענטשט יאָר "a gut gebentsht yor" ("a good blessed year"). The formal Sephardic greeting is Tizku Leshanim Rabbot ("may you merit many years"), to which the answer is Ne'imot VeTovot ("pleasant and good ones"). Less formally, people wish each other "many years" in the local language.
A more formal greeting commonly used among religiously observant Jews is Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah (Hebrew: כְּתִיבָה וַחֲתִימָה טוֹבָה), which translates as "A good inscription and sealing [in the Book of Life]", or L'shanah tovah tikatevu v'tichatemu meaning "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year". After Rosh Hashanah ends, the greeting is changed to G’mar chatimah tovah (Hebrew: גמר חתימה טובה) meaning "A good final sealing", until Yom Kippur. After Yom Kippur is over, until Hoshana Rabbah, as Sukkot ends, the greeting is Gmar Tov (Hebrew: גְּמָר טוֹב), "a good conclusion".
The above describes three stages as the spiritual order of the month of Tishrei unfolds: On Rosh Hashanah Jewish tradition maintains that God opens the books of judgment of creation and all mankind starting from each individual person, so that what is decreed is first written in those books, hence the emphasis on the "ketivah" ("writing"). The judgment is then pending and prayers and repentance are required. Then on Yom Kippur, the judgment is "sealed" or confirmed (i.e. by the Heavenly Court), hence the emphasis is on the word "chatimah" ("sealed"). But the Heavenly verdict is still not final because there is still an additional hope that until Sukkot concludes God will deliver a final, merciful judgment, hence the use of "gmar" ("end") that is "tov" ("good").
- Isidore Singer, J. F. McLaughlin, Wilhelm Bacher, Judah David Eisenstein (1901–1906). "New-Year". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. Retrieved September 10, 2018.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- Jacobs, Louis. "Rosh Ha-Shanah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 17. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2007. 463–466.
- See Numbers 29:1
- "Exodus 34:18 "Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt". biblehub.com. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Bible Gateway passage: Exodus 34:18 – International Standard Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Mulder, Otto (2003). Simon the High Priest in Sirach 50: An Exegetical Study of the Significance of Simon the High Priest As Climax to the Praise of the Fathers in Ben Sira's Concept of the History of Israel. Brill. p. 170. ISBN 9789004123168.
- "OU on Elul". Ou.org. Archived from the original on March 23, 2006. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:1
- Babylonian Talmud; Poskim
- Josephus writes in Antiquities of the Jews (1.3.§ 3) concerning the "second month", when the flood of waters appeared in the days of Noah: "This calamity happened in the six-hundredth year of Noah's government, in the second month, called by the Macedonians Dius, but by the Hebrews Marchesuan; for so did they order their year in Egypt; but Moses appointed that Nisan, which is the same with Xanthicus, should be the first month for their festivals, because he brought them out of Egypt in that month: so that this month began the year as to all the solemnities they observed to the honour of God, although he preserved the original order of the months as to selling and buying, and other ordinary affairs."
- Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 11b–12a; Rabbi Yehoshua says that the flood was in the second month counting from Nisan, but Rabbi Eliezer says that it was in the second month counting from Tishri, and the Sages agree with Rabbi Eliezer; Aramaic Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan ben Uzziel on Genesis 7:11: "In the six-hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, being the month of Marheshvan, for hitherto they did not count the [lunar] months except from Tishri, insofar that it is the New Year for the completion of the universe."
- Tractate on Rosh Hashanah I,2
- Tractate on Rosh Hashanah, I,16b
- Psalms 69:29
- ArtScroll Machzor, Rosh Hashanah. Overview, p. xv.
- Maimonides, Yad, Laws of Repentance 3:4
- Jewish Law permits the Shofar to be blown in the presence of a rabbinical court called the Sanhedrin, which had not existed since ancient times. A recent group of Orthodox rabbis in Israel claiming to constitute a modern Sanhedrin held, for the first time in many years, an Orthodox shofar-blowing on Shabbat for Rosh Hashanah in 2006. TheSanhedrin.net: Shofar Blowing on Shabbat (translation of Haaretz Archived January 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine article)
- "How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashanah". Nehemia's Wall. September 26, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Karaite Jews of America". The Karaite Jews of America. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Tractate Rosh Hashanah 1:1
- "An early Rosh HaShanah? – Ask the Rabbi". Oztorah.com. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Tractate Rosh Hashanah 20a
- A popular mnemonic is "lo adu rosh" ("Rosh [Hashanah] is not on adu"), where adu has the numerical value 1-4-6 (corresponding to the numbering of days in the Jewish week, in which Saturday night and Sunday daytime make up the first day).
- Rav David Bar-Hayim. "Rosh HaShanna in Israel: One Day or Two?". Machon Shilo website. Jerusalem: Machon Shilo. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
Includes link for Audio Shiur in English
- "Do Reform Jews Celebrate One or Two Days of Rosh HaShanah?". August 21, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Exploring Sephardic Customs and Traditions, Marc Angel, p. 49
- "Brief Summary of the Keter Shem Tov's (Rabbi Shem Tov Gaguine) comments on the various minhagim practiced on the two nights of Rosh HaShanah at the evening seudoth (vol 6, pp. 96–101) compiled and explained by Albert S. Maimon". Archived from the original on June 15, 2009.
- Debby Segura (September 18, 2008). "The Rosh Hashanah Seder". Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Sternberg, Robert The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthful Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews, Harper Collins, 1996, pp. 320–321, ISBN 0-06-017691-1
- Babylonian Talmud (Keritot 6a)
- Rashi (ibid.) calls rubia by its Hebrew name "tiltan" (Heb. תלתן), which word he explains elsewhere as being fenugreek. However, Rabbi Hai Gaon, in one of his responsum in "Otzar Ha-Geonim", seems to suggest that "rubia" (Heb. רוביא) means cowpeas, or what others call, "black-eyed peas" (פול המצרי). Rabbi Hai Gaon's disciple, Rabbi Nissim ben Jacob (in his Commentary known as Ketav Hamafteah), thus explains the word לוביא, in our case spelled רוביא, as meaning non-other than cowpeas (פול המצרי), describing them as having a "dark eye in its center". Jews of North-Africa traditionally make use of stringed beans in place of rubia.
- Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook, 1990, New York, p. 508
- Posner, Menachem. "What Is Shanah Tovah? New Year Greeting Translation and More: The meaning of the traditional Rosh Hashanah wishes". Chabad.org. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Bottner, Lauren (September 21, 2011). "From Selichot to Simchat Torah". Jewish Journal. TRIBE Media. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Jewish Holiday Greeting Chart". Patheos.com. July 26, 2012. Archived from the original on September 26, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
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