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17 Rosh Hashanah facts that everyone should know!
1. Heads up! Surprise! Rosh Hashanah
does not mean “New Year” in Hebrew. It
actually means “Head of the Year.” Just
like your head (brain) tells your body
what to do, how you behave on Rosh
Hashanah has far-reaching consequences
for the entire year.
2. Toot-toot! Th e central observance of
Rosh Hashanah is listening to the blowing
of the shofar on both mornings of Rosh
Hashanah. Made from a hollowed-out
ram’s horn, the shofar produces three
“voices”: tekiah (a long blast), shevarim (a
series of three short blasts) and teruah (a
staccato burst of at least nine blasts). Th e
shofar is blown at various intervals during
the Rosh Hashanah morning service. Add
them all up and you get 100 “voices” in
3. Silent Shabbat. When Rosh
Hashanah coincides with Shabbat, we do
not blow the shofar on that day. Th e sages
enacted this as a precaution, in case someone
would end up carrying a shofar to an
expert to blow. Th ere is a deeper lesson
here as well. On Shabbat, the coronation
of the King is so deep and so special that
it’s accomplished without the bells and
whistles of the shofar.
4. House calls. Chabad rabbis all over
the world walk many miles on Rosh
Hashanah (when car travel is forbidden)
to blow shofar for people who are unable
to make it to synagogue. If you know
someone who cannot make it to synagogue,
let your closest Chabad rabbi know
as soon as possible.
5. Twice as nice. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated
for two days. In fact, while most
holidays get an extra day in the Diaspora,
Rosh Hashanah is the only one that is celebrated
for two days in Israel as well.
6. But not thrice. Th e Jewish calendar
follows a particular rhythm. Th e
fi rst morning of Rosh Hashanah can be
Monday, Tuesday, Th ursday or Shabbat—
never Sunday, Wednesday or Friday.
7. Fireworks in your dining room.
Like Shabbat and other Jewish holidays,
the Rosh Hashanah meals should be
eaten in the joyous glow of candles, lit
by the woman (or women) of the house.
Remember: On the fi rst night, it is ideal
to light before the onset of the holiday. On
the second night, light only aft er nightfall,
taking care to use a preexisting fl ame
and not blow out your match when done.
(Even though we may light fi res and cook
on holidays, kindling a new fi re or extinguishing
fl ames are forbidden.
8. Round rolls. On Rosh Hashanah we
traditionally start our holiday feasts with
two loaves of round challah, sweetened
with raisins to demonstrate our wish for
a sweet new year. To add sweetness to our
already sweet wish, we dip the challah in
honey before taking the fi rst bite
9. Apples dipped in honey. Th e meal
then proceeds, including a number of
sweet delicacies and other foods that
express our prayerful wishes for the year.
Th e most common symbolic food is apple
slices dipped in honey (or sugar in some
communities). Another favorite is tzimmes,
a traditional Eastern European dish
that includes carrots
10. Head for the head. It is customary
to sample a morsel from the head of a
fi sh on Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing our
wish to be “a head and not a tail.” Some
people prefer the head of a ram, which is
appropriate since it evokes the time when
Abraham almost followed God’s command
to sacrifi ce his son Isaac, until God
stopped him at the last moment and had
him sacrifi ce a ram instead.
11. Seed count. Many people eat pomegranates
on Rosh Hashanah, demonstrating
their wish for as many merits as the
pomegranate has seeds. It is commonly
said that the pomegranate has 613
seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvahs
in the Torah. However, this has yet to be
empirically demonstrated by seed counters
12. Meet and greet. Th e traditional
Rosh Hashanah greeting is “shanah tovah”
הבוט הנש) ), which means “good year.” Th e
word u’metuka ( הקותמו ), “and sweet,” is
13. A day to play. Th e Rosh Hashanah
morning services are particularly long,
mostly due to the extra liturgy inserted
into the cantor’s repetition of the Amidah
(the standing prayer). Much of it is poetic
in style, and arranged according to
the Hebrew alphabet—a boon for people
wishing to learn the prayers by heart
14. Birth and (near) death. On both
days of Rosh Hashanah we read about the
life of Isaac. On the fi rst day we read about
God granting Sarah’s wish and blessing
her with a son, Isaac. On the second day
we read how Abraham almost sacrifi ced
him on an altar.
15. Cast away sins. On the fi rst aft ernoon
of Rosh Hashanah (provided it is
not Shabbat), it is customary to walk to
a body of fresh water and recite a special
prayer, symbolically casting our sins
into the waters. Th e waterside ceremony
(called tashlich) is evocative of the
coronation ceremonies of old, where the
rushing waters symbolized good wishes
for a long reign—appropriate on Rosh
Hashanah, when God is coronated King
of the Universe.
16. Don’t blink! Even though napping
on Shabbat is considered a virtuous
way to celebrate the day of rest, on Rosh
Hashanah we make a point of not napping
(and some people even stay awake
at night), not wasting a precious moment
on something as trivial as shuteye. Th e
Talmud states that if one sleeps at the
beginning of the year—i.e., on Rosh
Hashanah—his good fortune also sleeps.
17. Like sheep. On Rosh Hashanah
every single creature passes before God in
judgement. Yet it is not a sad day, but one
of quiet confi dence and optimism. Aft er
all, if God created us and continues to
sustain us, He obviously believes we have
something to accomplish on His earth.
And if He believes in us, so should we.
Copyright and reprinted with permission
of Chabad.org. Edited for format.
jewish new year