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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Spirit of Rosh Hashanah
Wish you all the best on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
Leshana tova tikateiv v'techateim." and
"Leshana tova tikateivi veti"
Joy and Judgement
Jacqueline O' Sullivan explains the annual celebration.
The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) takes place in the month of Tishri (September and October on the Gregorian calendar) and commemorates the anniversary of Creation. It is on this day that G-d opens the Book of Life and observes his creatures, deciding their fate for the coming year.
It is a time of restricted rejoicing because, even though it celebrates HaShem's kingship, the celebrations are muted in acknowledgement of the great judgment taking place.
As is customary in Jewish festivals, observance begins on nightfall the day before Rosh Hashanah. Celebrants prepare by bathing, receiving haircuts, donning special clothes and giving treats to children.
Certain types of work are forbidden, though there are some exceptions. Food preparation and the carrying, transferring or increasing of the fire is all permitted. Women of the household light commemorative candles before sunset of the first night and a half-hour before sunset on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, reciting blessings over them.
Though G-d opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah the judgment is not final. The book is 'sealed' on Yom Kippur, ten days later. The time between these two festivals is known as Shabbat Shuva (The Shabbat of Returning). This is a period for self-reflection in which to justify your existence to G-d. Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish celebration that lasts for two days, signifying the importance of this date in the calendar.
Prayers play an important part in the proceedings. Intense and lengthy devotions on Rosh Hashanah vary from those normally uttered on Sabbath with even the familiar prayers containing subtle differences. Following the evening prayer people will wish each other a Good New Year. There are also specific greetings for each sex. A man is wished, "Leshana tova tikateiv v'techateim." A woman is bid, "Leshana tova tikateivi vetichatemi." . The Yiddish equivalent is a "gut yoar."
Following lunch on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the ritual of the Casting is performed. Crumbs of bread are tossed into water after the Torah verse, "And you will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea." The hems of the worshippers' garments are shaken alluding to the fact that sins are being cast away.
One of the essential elements of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar. The shofar is made from an animal's horn, preferably a ram. The cow's horn is not acceptable, nor is any animal horn that's a solid piece.
The horn is blown 100 times every day of Rosh Hashanah upon the command of HaShem with different meanings attached to the varying sounds. The Tekiah is one long 'blast' with a clear tone. The Skevarium is a 'broken' sighing sound of three short calls. The Teruah is the 'alarm' of a rapid series of nine or more quick short notes.
The command to blow the shofar comes from the Torah, but no explanation is attached. Rabbis have provided different reasons. It acts as a reminder for the soul to enter into repentance. It is also a warning to the Jewish people not to fall into temptation. It calls to mind the blasts blown by Moses when he ascended from Mount Sinai for the second time, after pleading with G-d for mercy for the Jews who had worshipped at the alter of a false God.
The shofar blower recites two blessings - the community must listen to the blessings and respond 'Amen' to both. It is forbidden to speak once the first blast is sounded until the last one is blown.
The Jewish New Year takes place around September/October, and is considered one of the most important and serious holidays (or High Holy Days) in the Jewish calendar. As well as being a time for celebration it is also a time for reflection and repentance for sins committed in the previous year. In synagogue, people pray to God to forgive them for their wrongdoings and to give them a good year - during the service a Shofar, or ram's horn, is blown, to alert congregants to the seriousness of the festival and the fact that God is deciding their fates for the coming year - which will be sealed on the Day Of Atonement ten days later. This period is known as The Ten Days Of Repentance and is traditionally a solemn time.
However, Rosh Hashanah is also a time for celebration - other traditions include eating apples dipped in honey in the hope that this will lead to a sweet year.