the Jewish Skinny

September 18th, 2017

Rosh Hashanah:

28th of Elul, 5777

the dish
the dish

The literal translation of Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year.” However, it is not the beginning of the Jewish calendar year (which is in the Spring, around March), but instead the time of the year that we begin again to tell the story in the Torah of the creation of the world.

Although this is the time of year when we begin to read the first chapters of the Torah, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we instead read Genesis chapters 21 and 22, many chapters into Genesis. These chapters define the seminal relationship that the Jewish people have with God which defines our story and the entirety of the Torah.

Rosh Hashanah has several names that can help us understand the importance and power of this holiday:
Yom Harat Olam means "The Birthday of the World."
Yom Hazikaron means "The Day of Remembering."
Yom Hadin means "The Day of Judgment."
Yom Teruah means "The Day of Sounding (the Shofar)." This is the actual name that the holiday is called in the Torah.

When greeting family and friends on Rosh Hashanah, we say:
“Shanah Tovah Umetukah” (“A Good and Sweet Year”)

the GPS
the GPS

Every Jewish holiday starts on the eve before the first day because the Jewish calendar is on the cycle of the moon, not the sun.

This year, Erev Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wed, Sept 20th and concludes on Friday, Sept 22nd. This year is unique in that Rosh Hashanah ends precisely when the transition from the end of the week and the celebration of Shabbat begins.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are always 10 days apart (more to come in a future Skinny).

What year is it? We are now entering the year 5778.

the goods
the goods

Candles: Candles are lit to usher in Jewish holidays with warmth and light. Since Jewish days begin with the setting sun, a lit candle creates a sacred space, and marks the time. o On each night of Rosh Hashanah, we light 2 candles.

Round Challah: On both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we eat round challah. The roundness of the challah symbolizes many things including the circle of life and the cyclical nature of the passage of a year. Other “rounds” in the Jewish religion are: the egg at Passover, the Etrog on Sukkot, and the Pomegranate as a symbol for fertility with its many seeds. What other ones can your family come up with?

Apples and Honey: It is customary to dip our challah and apples in honey to symbolize the coming of a sweet new year.

But why apples and not bananas? The midrash, ancient commentary on the Torah, recounts that when Pharaoh decreed that “every Israelite boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile” (Ex. 1:22), the women had another plan! They would sneak into the fields, hiding from the Egyptians, and give birth under the apple trees. The apples and honey we eat on Rosh Hashanah are not only a symbol for a sweet new year, but a remembrance of a mother’s unconditional love for her children and all she does to protect them.


o The shofar is an ancient musical instrument made of a ram’s horn.
o The shofar blowing is a series of three types of blasts:

• Tekiah: a long sob-like blast
• Shevarim: a series of three short wails
• Teruah: at least nine piercing staccato bursts

o Why 9? The number 9 is derived from the fact that the Torah has three verses that mention teru'ah and another verse that indicates that each teru'ah needs to be preceded and followed by a teki'ah blast - this makes for a total of 9 blasts.

the holy in it
the holy in it

Like in the “Head of the Year,” the head controls the body. Our actions and intentions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the year to come.

Rosh Hashanah Readings - Learn more here!

Reading on Day 1 of Rosh Hashanah: Genesis 21

1. Sarah (Abraham’s wife) miraculously gives birth to Isaac at the ripe old age of 90.

2. Isaac is circumcised 8 days later.

3. Ishmael, having already been born to Abraham’s servant, Hagar, is banned from Abraham and Sarah’s household.

4. God promises Abraham that both Ishmael and Isaac’s descendants will be great nations.

Reading on Day 2 of Rosh Hashanah: Genesis 22

1. Abraham is tested by God with the binding of Isaac (Isaac is spared and a ram is sacrificed in his place)

2. Rebekah is born who ends up being Isaac’s wife.

3. The reason that we blow a ram’s horn (the shofar) on this holiday is to remind us of the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

4. The sound of the shofar is to wake us up, like a jolt when your alarm goes off in the morning.

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