What is Rosh Hashanah – Rosh Hashanah is a Hebrew word, meaning ‘the beginning of new year’. So as the name suggests, it is the New Year in the Jewish Calender. In the Hebrew bible it is known as Yom Teruah, which means ‘the day of yelling/blaring’. It also means ‘Feast of Trumpets’. It is the first holy day of the Jewish Calender that comes in the early autumn of the Northern hemisphere.
What is Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for the first two days of Tishri; seventh month according to the Christian Calender, but first Jewish month. Rosh Hashanah is the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, who were the first man and woman as of the Hebrew bible.
The fest also embarks the significance realized by Adam and Eve about the importance of role of humanity in the God’s world. The rituals followed for Rosh Hashanah include the blowing of Shofar (hollow horn of Ram), making a sound like that of a trumpet. This tradition is followed by the people since it is mentioned in the Hebrew bible ‘to raise a noise’ on Yom Teruah.
According to the rabbinical (a Hebrew title given to a Jewish scholar/teacher) customs, the Jewish eat apples that are dipped in honey, and this symbolizes to arouse a ‘sweet new year’.
In Hebrew, ‘Rosh’ designates ‘head’, ‘ha’ means ‘the’ and ‘shanah’ means ‘year’. Hence, the meaning of ‘Rosh Hashanah’ is ‘head (of) the year’, which refers to the Jewish new year day. The Hebrew Rosh Hashanah comes from the Arabic Ras as-Sanah, which was chosen as the name of Islamic New Year by the Muslim law makers.
Rosh Hashanah represents the God’s creation ‘ex nihilo’. Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua says that Rosh Hashanah marks the creation of humans.
The Karaite Judaism:
According to Karaite Judaism, the Jewish New Year commences from the first month itself, and they celebrate the day by shouting and rejoicing (as mentioned in the Torah). Karaites have adopted the ‘Rosh hashanah’ instead of ‘Yom Teruah’, resulting into the Babylonia of the pagan religion to conquer the Jewish nation.
Adopting the Babylonian month names was the first ever shift. In Torah, the months are named as First Month, Second Month, and so on. During the Jewish ancestor’s temporary stay in Babylonia, they started using the pagan Babylonian month names.
This historical fact is mentioned in the Talmud (Rabbinic literature). The later Jewish people became much familiar to the Babylonian month names itself.
Mishnah, one of the Rabbinic literatures describes the ways to use the Shofar and the laws regarding the religious prayer services conducted during Rosh Hashanah. It also signifies the rules concerning the calendar year. The shofar is blown long and short separating notes for which the following succession is followed:
• Teki’ah (long sound);
• Shevarim (3 separating notes);
• Teru’ah (9 short separating notes);
• Teki’ah Gedolah (very long sound);
• Shevarim Teru’ah (3 separating notes followed by 9 short separating notes).
The Shofar is blown for a total of 100 times over the day at various intervals that take place during the prayers for Rosh Hashanah.
The Rosh Hashanah eve:
The evening before the Rosh Hashanah is called Erev Rosh Hashanah. The important days of the Hebrew calendar begin at the evening. Erev Rosh Hashanah comes on the first day of Tishri. On the 29th day of the Hebrew month Elul, people perform nullification of vows which is called Hatarat Nedarim in Hebrew. This custom is done after the prayer services in the morning.
The Jewish calendar is completely dependent on the lunar cycle due to which first day of every month began with the sighting of the new moon itself. Hence, Rosh Hashanah has been arranged on the same basis since the fourth century.
In the rabbinic literature ‘Torah’, the celebrations of Rosh Hashanah have been defined for a single day. This New Year day never falls on first, fourth or sixth day of a week (Sunday, Wednesday or Friday) according to the Hebrew calendar rules.
Since the Second temple of Jerusalem was destructed in 70CE, the normative Jewish law was passed according to which Rosh Hashanah was celebrated for two days, and is still celebrated. This is done because there was a difficulty to determine the new-moon date.
Despite anything to the contrary, evidence exists that in Israel, Rosh Hashanah was celebrated for only one day uptil 13th century. The festive occasion is now observed for first two days of Tishri by the Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. The two days of Rosh Hashanah compose ‘Yoma Arichtah’.
The meals during Rosh Hashanah generally consist of apples dipped in honey which symbolize the beginning of a sweet new year. One food which symbolizes the most significant thing is the fish-head. It signifies the prayer ‘let us be the head and not the tail’. Many Jewish communities observe ‘Rosh Hashanah seder’ in which the blessings are recited in the form of various symbolic dishes.
The menu also consists of ‘Yehi Ratzon’, meaning ‘May it be Thy will’. It consists of a platter composed of apples dipped in honey that are either baked or cooked as a dessert named as ‘Mansanada’. This is the most important content of the meals.
Other fruits included in the platter are pomegranates, dates, black-eyed peas, pastries filled with pumpkins called rodanchas, beets and fish. Stuffed vegetables known as legumbres yaprakes are also consumed by some Jews.
The foods like dates, black-eyed peas, leek, spinach, are mentioned in the rabbinic literature, Talmud symbolizing ‘Let a man be accustomed to eat on New Year’s Day gourds, and fenugreek, leeks, beet leaves and dates’. Pomegranates symbolize of being fruitful like it consists of many seeds within it.
Rosh Hashanah Greetings:
The common greetings on Rosh Hashanah are exchanged by saying ‘Shanah Tovah’ and it means ‘Have a good year ahead’ people even greet by saying ‘Shanan Tovah Umetukah’ that means ‘A good and sweet year’. In Yiddish people greet saying ‘a gut yor’ which says ‘a good year’. Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah is the more formal way of greeting by Jews.