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© 1996-2014 Torah Tots, Inc.

ROSH HASHANA

THE MONTH
OF
TISHREI
TISHREI CALENDARThe month of Tishrei (around September and/or October) is the busiest time of the year for Jewish holidays. In the month of Tishrei, there are a total of 12 days of Yom Tov, 7 of them Yomim Tovim on which Melacha (work) is not permitted.

These Yomim Tovim include the days known as the "Yomim Noraim," (High Holy days), the most important holidays of the Jewish year: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  Four days after Yom Kippur comes the Yom Tov of Sukkot.


SELICHOT

In preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we recite special Selichot prayers. Selichot means forgivness. The Selichot prayers emphasize and arouse G-d's trait of mercy, benevolence and forgivness. At the same time, the prayers encourage us to reflect on our deeds and resolve to improve them.

The Sephardic custom is to say Selichot throughout the entire month of Elul until Yom Kippur, to commemorate the 40 days that Moshe spent on Har (Mount) Sinai to receive the second Luchot (Tablets of the Law).

Ashkenazic communities begin reciting Selichot before Rosh Hashana. According to Rabbi Eliezer (Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashana 8a), Adam and Eve were created on Friday, the sixth day of Creation, which was Rosh Hashana. That means that Creation began on Sunday, the 25th day of Elul. Therefore, the Jews of Barcelona adopted the custom of beginning the recitation of Selichot on that day.

The Rabbis also wanted to allow at least four days of Selichot before Rosh Hashana, alluding to the four days that an animal must be checked for blemishes before it is used as an offering. The concept is that we should analyze ourselves before we "present" ourselves before Hashem on Rosh Hashana. Consequently, when Rosh Hashana falls on a Monday or Tuesday, the recital of Selichot must begin sooner - and it is moved up a week, to the previous Motzei Shabbat.

According to Ashkenazic custom, this year, (2014), Selichot will begin September 20th, Motzei Shabbat at midnight.


ROSH
HASHANA

Rosh Hashana, is observed on the first and second day of the month of Tishrei. This year (2014), Rosh Hashana will begin sundown Wednesday, September 24th, ushering in the New Year 5775. Rosh Hashana is Thursday and Friday, September 25 and 26.

Rosh Hashana means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year (5775). There is, however, very little similarity between Rosh Hashana, one of the holiest days of the year, and the secular December 31st midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.

The only similarity between the Jewish New Year and the secular one is: Many people use the New Year as a time to make "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to be made in the new year.

The Torah refers to Rosh Hashana as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (a day of shofar blowing). The name "Rosh Hashana" is not found in the Torah's discussion of this Yom Tov.

Rosh Hashana is celebrated for two days, not only in Chutz La-Aretz (outside of Israel), but also in Eretz Yisroel. The celebration of this Yom Tov is marked with solemnity, as it is on Rosh Hashana the whole world is judged for the coming year.

tttRosh Hashana begins a 10 day period, known as Aseret Ymay Tshuva, (Ten Days of Repentance) or Yomim Nora'im (High Holy days). These ten days that end with Yom Kippur, are a time for Tshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedaka (charity). Jews have these 10 days to consider the sins of the last year and repent and ask Hashem and our fellow man for forgiveness before Yom Kippur. More about this later.

A great deal of time is spent in the synagogue on Yomim Nora'im, praying to Hashem that our sins be forgiven and that we be inscribed in the "Book" of Life.

For an inspiring story about one of the most stirring prayers of the entire Yomim Noraim, - The Unesaneh Tokef  CLICK HERE.


MELACHA
(WORK)
ON ROSH
HASHANA

Work is not permitted on Rosh Hashana. The "work" prohibited on Rosh Hashana is the same as that prohibited on Shabbat, except that cooking, baking, transferring fire and carrying, all of which are forbidden on Shabbat, are permitted on Rosh Hashana. When Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, all bets are off, and all Shabbat restrictions must be observed.
ERUV
TAVSHILIN

NOTE: THIS APPLIES TO THIS YEAR - ROSH HASHANA 2014:

When Rosh Hashana fall on Thursday and Friday, in order to be able to cook on Friday for Shabbat, an Eruv Tavshilin is made.
It is usually forbidden to prepare food on Yom Tov for another day, even for the Shabbat. However, if someone began preparing food for Shabbat before Yom Tov, (on Wednesday), it is permitted to continue on Friday (even though it is Yom Tov). This is known as 'Eruv Tavshilin,' literally, 'mingling of cooked foods,' since these foods become part of the Shabbat food, whose preparation has already begun BEFORE the Yom Tov started, and may therefore be continued on Friday.

Some food (a matzah and a cooked food, such as an egg, fish or meat) is prepared on the afternoon before Yom Tov (Wednesday), and set aside to be eaten on Shabbat. When we set this food aside on Wednesday afternoon, we recite the following blessing:

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has made us holy with His mitzvot, and commanded us about the mitzvah of Eruv."

We now explain why we are making an Eruv, so we say the following paragraph. Someone who does not understand the text should recite it in English:

"With this Eruv, may we be allowed to bake, to cook, to fry, to insulate, to light a flame, to prepare for, and to do anything needed on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat [for ourselves and for all the Jews who live in this city]."


THE SHOFAR
(RAM'S HORN)

The shofar (ram's horn), is blown on Rosh Hashana. It sounds something like a trumpet. However, unlike a trumpet, the shofar has no mouthpiece. One of the most important Mitzvot of this Yom Tov is hearing the 100 sounds coming from the shofar in the synagogue each day of Rosh Hashana.

There are three different types of shofar sounds:
(To HEAR each sound, CLICK on the name of the sound).

  • Tekiah, a 3 second sustained note;
  • Shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone,
  • Teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds;
There is also a Tekiah Gedolah (literally, "big Tekiah"), the final blast, which lasts longer than the regular Tekiah.

It is very difficult to blow the shofar. A Ba'al tokay-ah, (Shofar blower) may spend many hours practicing before Rosh Hashana.

The Ba'al tokay-ah should be someone who is respected in the community, a person who is well liked and does good deeds. Another person stands next to the Ba'al tokay-ah, and calls out the order of the Tekiyot. You are supposed to stand during the Tekiyot, but more important, it is forbidden to talk from the time of the first Bracha (blessing) of the shofar until after the final shofar blasts at the end of Mussaf.

The Torah gives no specific reason why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana. According to the great Jewish scholar, Rambam (Maimondies), we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana to say, "Wake up! Wake up, everyone who is asleep! Remember your Creator! Instead of going around doing things that are not important or worthwhile, take some time to think about what you can do to make yourself into a better person. Give up doing bad things!"

Rav Saadia Gaon gave many reasons for blowing the shofar, here are some:

  1. Rosh Hashana is the birthday of the world.
  2. The shofar reminds us of Akeidat Yitzchak, (the Binding of Isaac) where Abraham sacrificed a ram in the place of his son.
  3. At Har (Mount) Sinai, when Hashem gave us the Torah, Bnei Yisroel heard the sound of a shofar. The shofar reminds us that Hashem gave us laws and rules to obey.
  4. The shofar is the call of redemption. The shofar reminds us that Hashem will redeem the Jewish people.

The shofar is not blown if Rosh Hashana falls on a Shabbat.


 

SOME
MINHAGIM
(CUSTOMS)
OF
ROSH
HASHANA



Why Apples?

The Talmud tells us that "Simmana Milsa" - "a symbol has significance." We perform symbolic acts as a sign for good, an expression of prayer that the New Year be a good one for us. Here are some of the Minhagim of the Rosh Hashana evening meals.

It is a Minhag (custom) during the New Year season to feature sweet foods as a symbol of our desire for a sweet year.

We also dip Challah in honey at this time of the year for the same reason. The Challah is not braided as usual but instead baked in a circle - a wish that the coming year will roll around smoothly without unhappiness or sorrow.

Apple in Honey A popular Minhag during Rosh Hashana is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. It's a highly recommend practice, it's also yummy.

After saying the Bracha ....Boray pree ha eitz,
we say:
Y'hee ratzon .*.. sheh-tichadesh alainu shana tovah oomtookah. (*Some add Hashem's name)
"May it be your will..*.that you renew for us a good and sweet year."

On Rosh Hashana, we eat from the head of a fish or sheep. Before we eat we recite:
"May it be your will that we be like the head (leaders) and not like the tail (followers)."

Before eating the Pomegrante, we recite:
"May it be your will.....that our merits be increased like (the seeds of) the pomegrante."

Before eating fish, we recite:
"May we be fruitful and multiply like fish."

Before eating carrots, we recite:
"May our merits multiply."
Others recite:
"May it be your will....that our evil sentence be torn before you, and our merits be read out before you."

Before eating dates, we recite:
"May it be your will.....that our foes be consumed."


TASHLICH

TashlichAnother popular Minhag of Rosh Hashana is Tashlich ("casting off"). It is performed after the Mincha prayers, on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana, (unless Rosh Hashana falls on a Shabbat, then Tashlich is performed on the second day). We walk to a body of flowing water, preferably one containing live fish, say a special prayer, and symbolically empty our pockets into the river, casting off our sins.

The Tashlich service is a Minhag based on the verse from Micah (7:9) "and cast into the depths of the sea all their sins."


"MAY YOU
BE
INSCRIBED
AND SEALED
IN THE BOOK
OF LIFE
FOR A
GOOD YEAR"

Our Sages tell us that once we enter the month of Elul, anytime a person writes a letter to someone, the writer should mention the fact at the beginning of the letter that he wishes and hopes that the person have a good year. Some Sages write that expressing these wishes can be done at the end of the letter as well. The standard blessing is "K'tivah V'chatimah Tovah," literally "A good writing and sealing," meaning that the person should be written, so to speak, in the Book of Life, the Book of Good, and be sealed in that book as well.

The common greeting during this period is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is short for "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

These greetings are used during this period because on Rosh Hashana the destiny of all mankind is recorded by Hashem in "Books." In these "Books," Hashem writes in our names, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. Though these "Books" are written in on Rosh Hashana, our actions during Aseret Ymay Tshuva, (the Ten Days of Repentance) can alter Hashem's decree. The actions that can change the decree are Tshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedaka (charity).

It is very important to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud states that Yom Kippur can only atone for sins between man and Hashem. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek to reconcile with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.

On Yom Kippur these "Books" are closed and sealed.


TZOM
(THE FAST
OF) GEDALIA

This year, (2014), because the day after Rosh Hashana is Shabbat, Tzom (the fast of) Gedalia is observed on Sunday, September 28, the 4th day of Tishrei, (instead of the usual 3rd day of Tishrei).

Tzom Gedalia commemorates the assassination of Gedalia ben (son of) Ahikam, the Jewish governor of Israel, a critical event after the destruction of the first Bait Hamikdash.

After the destruction of the first Bait Hamikdash and the subsequent exile, a small group of Jews remained in Eretz Yisroel. Nebuchadnetzar, king of Babylon, appointed Gedalia ben Ahikam, a descendant of a prominent family of scribes, to govern Judean Jewry. Acting as a undercover agent of the King of Ammon, Yishmael ben Nesanyah, a member of the royal family, killed Gedalia on the 3rd of Tishrei. This act marked the slaughter of thousands and the end of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel. (See Melachim II, Chapter 25 and Yirmiyahu, Chapters 40-41)

Tzom Gedalia lasts from dawn to nightfall, and one may eat breakfast if one arises before sunrise for the specific purpose of doing so.


SHABBAT SHUVA

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva (the Shabbat of Return) because the Haftorah which is read on this Shabbat begins with the words Shuva Yisroel, (Repent O' Israel). Others call it Shabbat Tshuva (Repentance), as it falls in the Aseret Ymay Tshuva, (Ten Days of Repentance). This year (2014) Shabbat Shuva, is September 27.

It is customary for the Rabbi of the Congregation to give a sermon on this Shabbat which includes the basic laws of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and devoted to the theme of Tshuva and hopefully awaken and inspire people to correct their ways with Tshuva.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!!



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