What is Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year. It is the first day of the most solemn period in the Jewish calendar. Jews believe that during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur God judges the deeds of all men and women. During this period Jews reflect on their conduct over the past year and seek forgiveness for any sins they may have committed against God and fellow human beings. In addition, they make a sincere attempt to right any wrongs they may have caused.
Rosh Hashanah falls on the first day of TISHRE in the Jewish calendar (usually during September) and is also celebrated on the following day. Jews don’t work during these two days and only carry out those activities that are essential.
The Eve of Rosh Hashanah
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah people leave work early in order to prepare for the festival.
A festive meal is prepared that includes sweet foods such as grapes or honey to show the sweetness of the new year.
Just before nightfall, the woman of the house will light two candles and give the blessing: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has hallowed us by His commandments and commanded us to ‘kindle the festival light.” The candles are then placed on or near the dining table so that all can see them during the festive meal.
The rituals continue, with the head of the household raising a cup of wine and reciting the Kiddush (prayer) of Rosh Hashanah. Before drinking the wine those assembled join in reciting: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has caused us to live, sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.” They then drink wine.
The male head of the house then makes a blessing over two festive loaves of bread: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.” He then breaks one of the loaves and distributes it to all who are present. Pieces of apple are then dipped in honey and blessed with the words: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the tree.” After eating the apple those present say: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, and God of our fathers, to renew for us a good and sweet year.”