L'Shanah Tovah or Happy New Year!
That’s what Jewish families will be saying at sundown on Sept. 4 to commemorate the start of the new year, according to the Hebrew calendar. The High Holiday begins Wednesday at sunset and continues until nightfall on Sept. 6.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the popular Jewish holiday, below are answers to five common questions surrounding the Jewish new year:
1. What does Rosh Hashanah mean?
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Rosh Hashanah, which literally means "head of the year," is observed on the first two days of the Hebrew calendar on 1 Tishrei, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
While the Hebrew month of Tishrei is the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar, the date corresponds to biblical verses Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6, which describe a “festival of trumpets” on the “first day of the seventh month.”
The holiday marks when the Jewish calendar year advances and is traditionally seen as the date when the world was created. It is considered one of the holiest days of the year and emphasizes introspection on the past year and planning ahead for the new one.
2. Common rituals?
Blowing the shofar, or ram’s horn, in synagogue is one of the central observances of the High Holiday. While the Bible gives no specific reason for the practice, some see it as a sound that represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king, a call to repentance, or harking back to the biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac.
Another tradition, called Tashlich, involves saying a prayer near a body of water and throwing small pieces of bread to symbolically cast off sins. The observance began around the 13th century, when rabbis believed superstitious people would place a higher value on the physical act than praying for repentance.
3. What’s to eat?
One of the most popular food traditions is dipping apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. In ancient times, Jews believed apples had healing properties, and the honey symbolized the hope of a sweet new year. A round loaf of challah that represents continuity, along with other sweet foods, are common dishes for the new year.
4. What do you say?
A popular greeting during Rosh Hashanah is L'shanah tovah, which means "for a good year." This is a shorter version of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem,” which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."
5. How is it related to Yom Kippur?
Rosh Hashanah also signifies the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance,” which ends on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The period of time between the two holidays are given to repent and ensure a good fate in the coming year. The holidays are distinct yet related.
During both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews read from a prayer book called a mahzor in synagogue, which contain liturgical texts related to repentance and redemption.
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as a day of joy to welcome the new year. Unlike the festivities surrounding Rosh Hashanah, on Yom Kippur Jews turn their attention toward the sins they committed in the past year and plead to God for forgiveness -- fasting for 24 hours and refraining from work to demonstrate repentance.