The Meaning of the Jewish New Year – Symbolism, History and Traditions of Rosh Hashana

by admin on October 13, 2012

21325023010_rosh-hashana-final.jpgRosh Hashana, or the Jewish New Year, occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. In the Bible this Festival is also known as Yom Teruyah “the day of sounding the Shofar”. It is also referred to as Yom Hazicharon, “the day of remembrance,” not only of great events in the distant past, but also of what has transpired since the year began.
Another name for this Festival is Yom Hadin, “Day of Judgment”. It is believed that on this day, God ascends to his throne and judges us according to our deeds of the past year. We have until Yom Kippur to redeem ourselves before our fate for the coming year is sealed.
One custom of this holiday is that of tashlick (to cast out) whereby we symbolically rid ourselves of all our sins. Therefore, during the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we ask forgiveness from friends, colleagues and acquaintances if we have wronged them in any way.

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Although Rosh Hashana is considered the start of the new year, it does not fall during the first month of the year. Tishrei is actually the seventh month, the first month being Nissan, the month in which we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. The Jewish year is counted in a different way to the secular year and is believed to be counted from the beginning of the world.
This festival of the New Year is rich in symbolism and traditionally we try to eat the first fruit and vegetables of the season and a prayer is invoked that the favorable symbolism of each fruit be fulfilled. For example, the pomegranate is eaten to the accompaniment of the invocation that our merits be multiplied as the seeds of this fruit.
Similarly, an apple is dipped in honey and the wish uttered that we may have a sweet and pleasant year.
The challah that we eat is round, symbolizing that a year ends and a year begins seamlessly and effortlessly. It is impossible to see where one ends and the other begins. Some traditions call for the head of a fish to be eaten on the Jewish new year as a symbol of the start of a new year.
On this day we wish each other Shanah Tovah, “a happy new year” in hopes that the forthcoming new year will be better than the previous year.

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