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Rosh Hashanah

Home > Holidays > Rosh Hashanah's Guide to Rosh Hashanah
The Month of Elul
Ten Days of Repentance

Rosh Hashanah: FAQ

What is Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is a high holiday where we look into ourselves and turn to God for mercy and for the hope of being granted a good year.

When is Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first and second days of Tishrei. It usually falls during September.

What takes place on Rosh Hashanah?
Jews spend time in synagogue hoping either to keep God's good decree of their fate for the next year, or to sway it from bad to good. The shofar is blown, signifying a call for repentance. Foods that symbolize a sweet year are eaten.

Is the shofar blown on Shabbat?

Why is a shofar made from the horn of a ram?
This is also symbolic of Isaac's binding to be sacrificed, when God spared him and directed Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead, just as Jews hope they will be spared a stern decree.

What are the three sounds the shofar makes?
There are three types of shofar blasts: tekiah, a solid blast lasting a few seconds; shevarim, three shorter blasts, signifying a broken heart; and teruah, nine quick, very short blasts, signifying a weeping heart.

What special foods are eaten on Rosh Hashanah?
Round challot, often with raisins inside for added sweetness, signify a well-rounded year. The challah is dipped in the honey to signify sweetness for the coming year. An apple dipped in honey recalls God's creation of the world, which took place on Rosh Hashanah; the apple signifies man's first sin and that people are always striving to be better. Another common food served is the head of a fish, symbolizing fertility and that God decrees the year to be like a head and not a tail.

What is Tashlich?
Tashlich literally means to cast away. In Tashlich Jews cast away the remainder of their sins at a body of water that contains living fish. A few prayers are recited. Water symbolizes purity and with the vastness of the body of water, it's unlikely the sins will return to the surface. The living fish symbolize God's watchfulness, and they don't gossip.

What is Havdalah?
The short service done at home that concludes Shabbat and holidays. After a holiday it is recited over a cup of wine.

What are the Ten Days of Repentance?
The ten days of repentance are the days from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, when God is believed to be judging the Jewish people.

What takes place during the Ten Days of Repentance?
Prayer, giving charity, and repentance, in the form of acting more considerate toward others, better speech, and Torah study.

What is the Fast of Gedalia?
The Fast of Gedalia falls on the 3rd day of the ten days of repentance, the day right after Rosh Hashanah. This is a daytime fast honoring Gedalia, governor of Judea in 6th Century BCE, who was murdered by members of his community. This murder caused people to disperse from Israel.

What is Shabbat Shuva?
Shabbat Shuva is the special Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On this Shabbat rabbis customarily recite a sermon about repentance.

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