Published On: September 1, 2009

Jewish New Year

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Rosh Hashanah is the first and second days of the first Jewish month of Tishrei.  It marks the beginning of the Jewish new year. Sunset on September 19, 2009 marked the beginning of the year 5770. On this important religious holiday, a blessing is generally said over two loaves of bread, known as challah. The round shape of the bread symbolizes a crown, a symbol of the kingship of God. It also represents the circle of life. Apples dipped in honey are another Rosh Hashanah tradition. It symbolizes the Jewish wish for a sweet year.

Rosh HaShanah literally means “Head of the Year” in Hebrew. It falls in the month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. The Hebrew calendar begins with the month of Nissan (when it’s believed the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt), but the month of Tishrei is believed to be the month in which God created the world. Hence, another way to think about Rosh Hashanah is as the birthday of the world.

Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days, the two most important Jewish holidays, God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. As a result, during Rosh Hashanah and the other High Holy Day, Yom Kippur, (and in the days leading up to them) Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This process of repentance is called teshuvah. Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improvement during the coming year. In this way, Rosh Hashanah is all about making peace in the community and striving to be a better person. Even though the theme of Rosh Hashanah is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope for the New Year. Jews believe that God is compassionate and just, and that God will accept their prayers for forgiveness.

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