Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as the Jewish New Year, is celebrated today, on September 20, by the Jewish people all over the world. Rosh Hashanah will begin at sunset on Wednesday, September 20 and end at sunset on Friday, September 22.
It is one of the most important holidays; it has many symbolic traditions.
Rosh Hashanah is translated from Hebrew as "A Good and Sweet Year". It is also a holiday for reflection and cleansing. A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone one might have wronged during the previous year. To the greatest extent possible in order to begin the year with a clean slate.
The Jewish calendar is different than today’s civil calendar (the Gregorian calendar). It is a “Luni-Solar” calendar, established by the cycles of the Moon and the Sun, so the lengths of days vary by the season, controlled by the times of sunset, nightfall, dawn, and sunrise. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs on the first two days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar.
This two-day festival celebrates the creation of man, specifically Adam and Eve, who were the first man and woman according to the Hebrew Bible, and the special relationship between humans and God, the creator.
Rosh Hashanah begins with the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, proclaiming God as King of the Universe, just as a trumpet would be sounded at a king’s coronation. In fact, Rosh Hashanah is described in the Torah as Yom Teru’ah, a day of sounding (the Shofar).
The sound of the shofar is also a call to repentance—to wake up and re-examine our commitment to God and to correct our ways. Thus begins the “Ten Days of Repentance” which ends with Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement.”
The customs and symbols of Rosh Hashanah reflect the holiday's dual emphasis on both happiness and humility. It is customary to begin Rosh Hashanah with a family dinner and to attend services that night and again the following day.
It is customary to eat sweet things, no bitter or salty during the first meal. All the dishes of the evening meal symbolize abundance, expected in the next year. Fish, a symbol of fertility, head of a sheep, a symbol of p primacy, success and prosperity, fruit and vegetables – as a hope for rich harvest, carrots, cut into round pieces, similar to coins in color and shape, sweet khala rolled into a circular shape for health and wealth, fatty meat and other culinary delights are traditionally served.
Before starting a meal everybody eats a piece of khala, a piece of an apple with honey for the coming year to be “sweet” and happy.
There is a common practice to eat a pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah, as its abundant seeds symbolize the hopes that come before God with abundant merits.
The period of time from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippuris known as the Ten Days of Penitence.
The Ten Days of Penitence are seen as an opportunity for change. And since the extremes of complete righteousness and complete wickedness are few and far between, Rosh Hashanah functions, for the majority of people, as the opening of a trial that extends until Yom Kippur. It is an unusual trial. Most trials are intended to determine responsibility for past deeds. This one, however, has an added dimension: determining what can be done about future deeds. The Ten Days of Penitence are crucial to the outcome of the trial, since our verdict is determined both by our attitude toward our misdeeds and by our attempts to rectify them by changing ourselves.
Hasid pilgrims come to Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah to visit the burial site of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, located on the former site of the Jewish cemetery in a rebuilt synagogue. Rebbe Nachman spent the last five months of his life in Uman, and specifically requested to be buried here. As believed by the Breslov Hassidim, before his death he solemnly promised to intercede on behalf of anyone who would come to pray on his grave on Rosh Hashana, "be he the worst of sinners"; thus, a pilgrimage to this grave provides the best chance of getting unscathed through the stern judgement which, according to Jewish faith, God passes on everybody on Yom Kippur.