Today begins the celebration of the New Year for individuals of Jewish faith. Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” or “first of the year.” The Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the New Year.
This highest of holidays is referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, 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 in a set, which lasts (I think) 10 seconds minimum. There is no specific for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance.
No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer-book called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.
Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year. There is an additional food delight that involves the dipping of bread in honey. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (“casting off”). This involves walking to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty pockets into the river which symbolizes the casting off of sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before afternoon services.
The common greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” On this highest of holy days in the Jewish faith, we wish everyone “L’shanah tovah”!