What Is Rosh Hashana? Everything You Need To Know About The Jewish New Year

on September 17 2012 12:37 PM
Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year known as the first of the High Holy Days, is being celebrated as the holiday comes from sundown on Sept. 16 to nightfall on Sept. 18. Twitter/@PBSFood

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year known as the first of the High Holy Days, is currently being celebrated as the holiday comes from sundown on Sept. 16 to nightfall on Sept. 18.

While the term Rosh Hashana takes on the literal meaning "head of the year," the annual holiday actually takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar.

While the timing might seem a bit off, the occurrence is due to the fact that Rosh Hashana, one of four new years in the Jewish year, is considered the new year of people, animals and legal contracts. In the Jewish oral tradition, Rosh Hashana marks the completion of the creation of the world.

As Rosh Hashana is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the "day of atonement," the Mishnah refers to Rosh Hashana as the "day of judgment." According to the study, it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are viewed as an opportunity for Jews to repent (teshuvah, in Hebrew) and ensure a good fate.

In celebration of the High Holiday, Jews gather in synagoguesfor extended services that follow the liturgy of a special prayerbook, called a "mahzor."

At specific times throughout the service, a shofar, or ram's horn, is blown. The mitzvah (commandment) to hear the shofar, a literal and spiritual wake-up call, is unique to this time of year.

Rosh Hashana, the only Jewish holiday that is observed for two days by all Jews, is commonly accompanied with the greeting "shana tovah u'metukah," Hebrew for "a good and sweet new year."'

Apples and honey, raisin challah, honey cake and pomegranate are eaten some traditional Rosh Hashana foods that Jews eat on the celebrated holiday.