Head of the Year
Hebrew Calendar Dates: 1st and 2nd of Tishrei. The first two days of the month of Tishrei. While Nissan is the first month in the Jewish calendar and the first month of our history as a Jewish nation, we celebrate the High Holiday of Rosh Hashana, the first of the Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe) in Tishrei, the 7th month.
Biblical Hebrew name: תְּרוּעָה יוֹם
Yom Teruah - Day of Blowing the Horn
Other Names for Rosh Hashanah:
Yom Ha’Din (Day of Judgment) and Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance), both referring to this time when all deeds of humanity are reviewed by God, and each person is passed before God in judgment for the year ahead based on his actions and repentance. Rosh Hashanah is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. This period of introspection does not end at the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah but actually stretches for ten days, known commonly as the, Asesret Yemei Teshuvah (the Ten Days of Repentance) culminating in Yom Kippur.
When it began:
Rosh Hashanah was given to the Jewish people during their 40-year sojourn in the desert. According to various Talmudic sources, Rosh Hashanah commemorates either the birthday of the world, the day God began creation of the universe, or the actual day of creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman and their first actions toward the realization of humanity's role in God's world. The name Yom Teru'ah, Day of Blowing the Horn, symbolizes a number of subjects, including the blowing of the Shofar (hollowed out ram’s horn), to proclaim God’s sovereignty and a “siren call” to awaken us to repentance, as well as the Binding of Isaac, an incredible merit that never exhausts the response of mercy and blessing from God.
How it’s observed today:
The two days are a combination of intense prayer and solemn celebration with special holiday meals. In prayer services, the special prayer book, the Rosh Hashanah machzor is used. Many thematic poems centering on God’s omnipotence, sovereignty and judgment of all mankind, are added to the prayers.
Sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram's horn). Even small children are brought to synagogue to hear the shofar blasts.
Eating a range of symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a "sweet new year", and the head of a fish (symbolizing the prayer "let us be the head and not the tail"). Other symbolic foods that are eaten are dates, black-eyed peas, leek, spinach and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud. Pomegranates are used in many traditions, to symbolize being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year, as well as a crown, because we refer to God as royalty several times throughout the holidays. On the second night, new fruits are served to warrant inclusion of the Shehechiyanu blessing (a prayer said to celebrate special occasions and to show thanks for new and unusual experiences).
Tashlich (תשליך) Service, which means “casting off.” On the first day of Rosh Hashanah after the afternoon prayer, many Jews go to a body of water (preferably containing fish), tossing pieces of bread into it and reciting the Tashlich prayers, wherein we symbolically cast our sins into the water and leave our old shortcomings behind us, thus hoping to start the new year with a clean slate.