In 2014, Rosh Hashanah – the major annual holiday celebrated annually and known as the Jewish New Year or Yom Teruah – begins on September 24 when the sun goes down and ends September 26. The moveable date is calculated each year based on the Hebrew lunar calendar.
Rosh Hashanah is the official beginning of the Hebrew calendar’s year. These days, Jews celebrate by eating apples coated in honey (for a sweet new year), going to religious services, and many participate in the ritual of “casting off” – throwing bread into running water, such as a river, to “cast off” their sins.
However, Rosh Hashanah wasn’t always the same as it is today. To show you the difference between then and now, here areah:
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Rosh Hashanah
- The name of the holiday “Rosh Hashanah” isn’t mentioned in the Torah or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Modern etymology traces the origin of the name to 1846, however, the name is mentioned in rabbinical literature prior to that date. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah literally means, |”beginning of the year.”
- The first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar (Tishrei) is celebrated as Rosh Hashanah. However, in Biblical times, it seems the holiday was considered fairly minor. “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” — Leviticus 23:24-25
- During the Geonic period in Jewish history, it was customary to serve a cooked calf’s head at Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing prosperity. Later, the holiday delicacy became a fish head. Many Jews substitute gefilte fish instead.
- Another symbol of Rosh Hashanah – pomegranates – is eaten on the second night as the symbolic “new fruit.” Why? Pomegranates were once believed to contain 613 seeds, the same number as the commandments written in the Torah.
- The blowing of the ancient musical instrument, the shofar – a trumpet made from a ram’s horn – is very specific at Rosh Hashanah, consisting of four sets of blasts: one tekiah (long), three shevarim (short), nine teruah (staccato), and one tekiah gedolah (very long). This gives Rosh Hashanah its other name – Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets.
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Rosh Hashana marks the Jewish New Year and is celebrated around the world. The date is based on the Hebrew lunar calendar and changes every year. In 2013, Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on September 4 and ends at sundown on September 6.
- What’s the Religion Behind The Holiday? In the Jewish faith, on Rosh Hashana, God opens and writes in three books: one records the righteous; the second, the wicked; and the third, the names of those who hang in the balance. During the Days of Awe (the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), people atone for their sins. It’s customary to attend services during this time.
- What Do People Say to Each Other? The traditional greeting, “l’shana tova tikatevu ve’tikhatemu” means “may your name be written and sealed for another year” and refers to #1. May be abbreviated to l’shana tova.
- What Do People Eat? Traditional foods during Rosh Hashana are honey and apples, symbolizing a “sweet” New Year. In addition, some families hold a Rosh Hashana seder - a ritual meal.
- What’s With the Horn? The shofar – a ram’s horn – is blown to awaken the faithful and as a remembrance of Abraham, whom God commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-13).
- What Else Happens? The Days of Repentance begin on Rosh Hashana. People are encouraged to meditate on their actions over the past year and if possible, make amends to anyone they may have wronged in some way.
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