On the Wednesday evening, sunset September 28, 2011, the Jews will celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The two-days-long holiday starts at evening since days in the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown, after the third star could be seen on the sky.
Rosh Hashanah literally means “head” or start of the [new] year. It is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. Jews have another three “new years” for different purposes, for example, “Tu B’shvat” - the new year for trees and plants occurs in the sunset of February, 7, 2012.
Rosh Hashanah represents the very First day of the world – the birthday of our Universe, the day of Creation. But some people believe this day represents the creation not of the world, but of Adam, the first man, and thus the word has been created five days before. In accordance with Jewish tradition the coming year will be 5772-nd from the beginning. The Jews believe that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed "to live." The middle class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous; the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living forever" (Psalms, #69:29). Together Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are often referred as High Holy days.
Because Jews believe that a person’s fate for the coming year will be decided during High Holy days, it is common for Jews in this time to exam their lives and to repent 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 improving in the coming year. In this way, Rosh HaShanah is all about making peace and striving to be a better person. And even though the theme of the festival is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope. Jews believe that God is compassionate and will accept their prayers for forgiveness.
The term “Rosh Hashanah” is not used in Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the festival as the day of judgment, the day of remembrance and the memorial with the blowing of horns. One of the most important attributes of the festival is Shofar, a ram’s horn, which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. The shofar is blown one hundred times during each of the two days of Rosh HaShanah festival and its sounding supposed to remind people about the Binding of Isaac, animal sacrifices in the Temple and importance of teshuvah, repentance.
A popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. Honey represents good living and wealth. The land of Israel is often called the land of "milk and honey" in the Bible.
Another symbol of Rosh Hashanah is pomegranates.
It is also said that this fruit contains 613 seeds (I tried to count them once but got wrong somewhere after two hundreds). We wish that our good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the fruit.
Also it is traditional to eat the head of a fish or a lamb during the Rosh HaShanah holiday meal. At least, to have it on the holiday table. The head symbolizes our commitment to be “in the head and not in the tail”. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year and of the life.
Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh. It is a ceremony that usually takes place during the first day of Rosh HaShanah. "Tashlikh" literally means "casting off" and involves symbolically empty our pockets and casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a flowing water like a creek or river. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom started somewhere from the middle ages.
People used to send greeting post cards on Rosh HaShanah. Before the advent of modern computers these were handwritten cards that were snail mailed weeks in advance. Nowadays it is equally as common to send Rosh HaShanah e-cards or e-mail congratulations, or post them in blogs a day or two before the holiday. The common greeting at this time is “l'shanah tovah umetukah”. In Hebrew it means “for a good and sweet year”. This is a shortening of another greeting sentence that means "may you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] and sealed for a good [and sweet] year". In Yiddish, it is common to wish someone gut-yor, i.e. “good year" on and around Rosh Hashanah.
So, my dear friends and readers! Please forgive me all my voluntarily or involuntarily wrongs and resentments. Let me wish you the very healthy and prospective, good and sweet new 5772-nd year! Let the Holy One be compassionate to all of us! Please go to my internet boutique http://bonbonland.etsy.com for gifts and presents for your little princesses! And good etsy-ing to everyone! ;o)
Natalia at Bonbonland