I know I’ve been MIA for a while, but it’s not from lack of trying or ambition, I swear. This time of year is especially hectic, from about the start of September through the end of the year, between Sabbats and High Holy Days and other celebrations.
Speaking of High Holy Days… last night kicked off Rosh Hashana!
Jewish Year 5773: sunset September 16, 2012 – nightfall September 18, 2012
Occurring on the first and second days of Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish year), Rosh Hashana literally means “head of the year” or “first of the year”, indicating what is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. It is one of the holiest days of the year and, while not named “Rosh Hashana” in the Bible (rather, it’s referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (day of sounding the shofar)), it is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.
Like the American New Year, Rosh Hashana is a time for making “resolutions” and turning to introspection, looking back at mistakes from the past year and planning changes to make in the new year. One custom is that of “casting off” or Tashlikh, when, on the afternoon of the first day, one walks to flowing water such as a creek or a river and casts off what is in one’s pockets (often bits of bread crumbs) into the water, symbolically casting off sin. While it’s not a tradition mentioned in the Bible, it’s a long-standing custom.
Some other customs associated with Rosh Hashana:
- Shofar: Fashioned out of a ram’s horn, the shofar is blown somewhat like a trumpet 100 times a day, with a total of four different types of notes: Tekiah, a 3-second sustained note; sevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone; teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, “big tekiah”), the final blast that lasts about 10 seconds minimum.
- Work and Worship: No work is permitted on Rosh Hashana. The day is instead spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is expanded somewhat. A special prayerbook called the machzor is added to these daily liturgies as so many changes happen on this day (and Yom Kippur).
- Apples and Honey: As a symbol for a wish for a sweet new year, apples are dipped in honey and enjoyed with a touch of added sweetness. Bread is also dipped in honey at this time for the same reason. I recommend trying them both (and for you vegans, to swap out the honey for agave nectar)!
- Greetings: The common greeting during Rosh Hashana is “L’Shanah Tovah”, literally “for a good year.” This is a shortening of “L’shanah toval tikatev v’taihatem” (or “tikatevi v’taihatemi” to women), which means, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”
So that all said, a very happy new year, may your new year be sweet, and a very happy 5773!