What is Rosh HaShanah?

Rosh HaShanah is the anniversary of HaShem's creation of the universe.  It is the birthday of the natural world and the very day that G-d created Adam and Eve.  It is also the biblical New Year often referred to as the "Jewish New Year".  Interestingly, Rosh HaShanah is the only festival held during the New Moon.  Since, in ancient Israel, the New Moon had to be cited and certified by the Sanhedrin, its precise "time" was never known.  As a result, Rosh HaShanah is the festival of "no man knows the day or the hour",  It should also be said that the Sages of Judaism have long believed that Ros HaShanah would be the season in which the resurrection of the dead would occur.  

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According to the Torah, Rosh HaShanah is observed ont he first tow days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.  The holiday begins at sundown on the eve of Tishrei.  Rosh HaShanah 2023 begins at sundown on September 15 and continues through nightfall on September 17. 

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There are many unique and exciting customs in the celebration of Rosh HaShanah.  We begin this special holiday with a deeply spiritual candle lighting in the evening followed by a festive meal.  The erev Rosh HaShanah Seder (ceremonial meal on the eve of Rosh HaShanah) has many savory dishes that hold a very special meaning (and blessing) related to the new year.  There are also special prayers that we pray during all of the various services of the holiday.  Each prayer expresses our hope for a good year, our acceptance of King Messiah and our submission to the sovereignty of the G-d of Israel!  It is also the beginning of renewal and repentance (teshuvah).  This last point is highlighted with the central focus of Rosh HaShanah:  The Sounding of the Shofar (ram's horn).  The great mitzvah of Rosh HaShanah is to hear the Shofar and to be born again; to allow the voice of HaShem, represented by the Shofar, to transform us into a new creation!  

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The Hebrew phrase, Rosh HaShanah, means "Head of the Year".  Just like the head controls the body, our actions on Rosh HaShanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year.  Rosh HaShanah is actually a judgement day and it begins the Yamim Nora'im or the "Days of Awe".  On this day "all inhabitants of the world pass before G-d 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".  Therefore, this day is a time of great joy and celebration as well as humble trepidation.  It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Alomighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity and blessing.  It is also a joyous day when we proclaim G-d King of the Universe.  

What is the Name of the Holiday?

The most common name fort this holiday is Rosh HaShanah, the name used in the eponymous tractate of Talmud devoted to the holiday.  The Torah refers to this day as Yom Teruah (DAy of Shofar Blowing).  (Leviticus 23:23) In most of our prayers, we call it Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom Hadin (Day of Judgement) since this is the day when G-d begins to judge all of His creation and determines their fate for the coming year.  The days from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur (which follows 10 days later) make up the Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe, also known as the High Holidays)

The Shofar: The Voice of G-d

The main observance of Rosh HaShanah is the sounding (and hearing) of the shofar, the ram's horn, on both days of the holiday.  Hearing the shofar is considered a very important mitzvah which comes with an incredible kedusha (holiness / anointing) as the shofar represents the very voice of the King of the Universe.  The Hebrew word "shofar" is related to the Hebrew for "amniotic fluid" as well as "to perfect".  As a result, the hearing of the shofar has a supernatural effect on our soul even our very being!  When we hear the shofar we are perfected and born anew.  The shofar is the voice of new creations! 

On Rosh HaShanah, the shofar is blown a total of 100 times with on final great blast called the Tekiah HaGadolah.  The shofar blosing contains a series of three types of blasts: tekiah, a long sob-like blast; shevarim, a series of three short wails; and teruah at least nine piercing staccato bursts.  

Other reasons why w blow the shofar during Rosh HaShanah is in order to coronate HaShem as our King, to represent our heart cry of repentance and to recall the binding of Issac (because a ram took his place); asking HaShem to consider us as if we had laid our life down as a sacrifice.  As believers in Yeshua, we understand that the shofar is meant to recall the sacrifice of the Messiah.  

Special Greetings and the Tashlich

Greetings:  On the first night of Rosh HaShanah, wish a male, "Leshanah tovah tikatev vetichateim"; for a female say, "Lashanh tovah tikatevee vetichatemee" ("May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year").  At other times, with them a "Gemar chatimah tovah" ("a good inscription and sealing [in the Book of Life]").

Tashlich:  On the first afternoon of Rosh HaShanah (provided it is not a Shabbat), it is customary to go to a living body of water (ocean, river, pond, etc.) and perform the Tashlich ceremony, in which we ceremonially cast our sins into the water.  With this tradition we are symbolically evoking the verse, "And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea".  The short prayer for this service can be dound in your machzor.