Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is the celebration of the birthday of the world and is a time of rejoicing, serious introspection and prayer. Jews from all around the world come together to celebrate God’s creation of the world during the two day Yom Tov. The central theme of the day in prayer as we daven for forgiveness, a good and successful year ahead, and we celebrate Hashem’s continued Kingship.
Literally meaning ‘the head of the year’, Rosh Hashanah is regarded as an important and solemn occasion, as a person’s actions and prayers during this time have a tremendous impact on the rest of their year. It is a time for reflection and repentance and is often referred to as the day of judgement. Good deeds are performed, charity is donated, and people daven that their names are to be sealed in the Book of Life in the hope of a good year ahead. However, no judgement is made during this time. Hashem reserves judgement for Yom Kippur which occurs ten days following Rosh Hashanah on which Hashem purifies and forgives.
Rosh Hashanah is not just a period of prayer, but it is also a time of joy as we proclaim God the King of the universe. There is an overall sense of celebration and positivity, despite the day’s solemnity, as we proclaim Hashem King and acknowledge and take responsibility for our actions.
Rosh Hashanah begins a ten-day period of repentance called the Yomim Noroim, which culminates in the fast of Yom Kippur. The Yomim Noroim is part of a long process of prayer which begins in Elul and lasts until Yom Kippur. From the first of Elul, forty days before Rosh Hashanah, an extra prayer – LeDovid Hashem Ori – is added and the shofar is sounded at the close of shacharit every day, except on Shabbat. Selichot are added to davening during the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah. These contain prayers asking for forgiveness on a personal level, but also for the Jewish nation as a whole. People are also particularly careful with their mitzvah observance during this time.
Men and women are required to hear one hundred shofar blasts on both days of Rosh Hashanah. The shofar blowing contains three types of blasts – tekiah, shevarim and teruah. There are many different opinions on the reason behind the Halacha to hear the shofar. Some hold that it is a call for our souls to repent, whereas some believe it represents the trumpet blasts that are sounded at a king’s coronation, thereby announcing Hashem’s continued Kingship. Additionally, the blast of the shofar will signal the coming of Moshiach. We thus blow the shofar to remind us to examine and contemplate our deeds and how we can improve upon them.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to go to a body of water such as a sea, river, pond or lake, preferably one containing fish and cast away the sins committed that year. This practice is called Tashlich, meaning ‘to cast’ and specific verses of Tehillim and Tashlich prayers are said.
From all of us at Kosher Kingdom we wish you a Shana Tova and a good year ahead!