Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year festival, marking the Jewish
month of Tishri, also celebrated as the Birthday of the World. In fact, Judaism has four “new years” which mark various legal “years”, much like 1 January marks the “New Year” of the Gregorian calendar. Rosh Hashanah is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Mishnah also sets this day aside as the new year for calculating calendar years and sabbatical (”shemitta”) and jubilee (”yovel”) years. It lasts for two days. This holiday is the first of the ”Yamim Noraim” (“Days of Awe”), the most solemn days of the Jewish year.
Jews pray in synagogues asking for their sins to be cleansed and they contemplate what they can do better in the year to come. The gates of heaven are open to receive prayer on Rosh Hashana and sealed until judgement on the Day of Judgement (Yom Kippur). Jews believe their deeds are weighed in terms of good or bad and the outcome can decide what the next year will be like for them. However, by repenting, giving charity and praying, they can wipe out any evil decreed against them for the coming year because it is believed that God is merciful.
A lot of time is spent in synagogue in prayer. The prayer will include the ritual of the shofar- a rams horn which is blown. This horn commemorates the story of Abraham and Isaacs sacrifice, and how Abraham trusted God and slaughtered a ram instead of Isaac. Jews are taught to trust God and have faith. 100 notes of the shofar (horn) must be heard. It is said that the shofar awakens the soul to do repentance and good deeds.
When not praying, Jews refrain from all work and spend time with family and friends, having celebratory meals. This will include several ritual foods, a blessing made on apple dipped in honey or bread dipped in honey for a sweet new year, a round not plaited Challa bread to symbolise the circle of life and year to come and some have a pomegranate on the table as it contains 613 seeds, the same number of commandments a Jew is obligated to fulfil.
Happy Rosh Hashana!
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