What is rosh hashanah?

What is Rosh Hashanah? Why do we celebrate it? What is its significance? Let’s be honest, there are dozens of websites dedicated to defining, breaking down, informing, and educating the public on what Rosh Hashanah is, how it’s celebrated, specific do’s and don’ts for the holidays, and calendars and schedules galore.

But here at MyLapid.com, we’re interested in more. We’re not claiming to have something new, or to have discovered something lost; we’re simply trying to regain a focus on what has been overlooked due to noise, hectic lifestyles, and a host of other interferences, not the least of which is spiritual impediment.

So, what is Rosh Hashanah at its core? What is Yom Ha-Zikkaron (a synonym for Rosh Hashanah) a day of remembrance of? Quite simply put, we’re stopping. We’re holding still. We’re pausing from all of the noise, all of the distractions, and all of the daily demands of life, to realize, remember, and show gratitude for one simple thing.

We’re standing in awe of the Creator of the universe, and thanking HaShem humbly, and in bewilderment, for choosing us. We’re stopping to be loved, and to love G-d in return, because He first loved us.

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the Jewish New Year, and the Feast of Trumpets (or Feast of Shouting). Adam and Eve were created at Rosh Hashanah. And the first thing the first man ever did was HEAR his Creator’s voice. We, likewise, are called, commanded even, to stop and listen to the voice of our Creator!

You have been chosen, by HaShem, because HaShem wanted to choose you. Not because you’ve earned it. Not because you’ve been a good boy or girl. Not because He owes you anything. You’ve been called, by your Creator, because your Creator loves you. Seals

You could spend the entire two day holiday, which kicks off the High Holidays, simply considering that point. And G-d, in His infinite wisdom, has given us ways to do just that.

The celebration includes some of the same activities as other holidays, and a few specific activities reserved just for this special occasion. Candles are lit each evening. Prayer services are held in the mornings that include blasts from the shofar. We abstain from work. 

We enjoy sweet treats as a celebration of the New Year, but also as an invitation for the next year to be sweet and enjoyable. We celebrate Rosh Hashanah each night with festive meals to go along with our sweet treats. And, of course, we include as much time with family and friends as possible.

We celebrate with specific prayers and specific blasts on the shofar set aside just for this occasion. One of these prayers, Tashlich, is a time of repentance. If it’s not a Shabbat, we take bread or pebbles to a quietly moving body of water, and as we pray we symbolically cast our sins into the river as a reminder that we are washed clean of our sins and transgressions.

Our prayers on Rosh Hashanah are in line with the understanding that we are being presented to The King of kings for the upcoming year. We’re praying for acceptance into His Kingdom and the Book of Life for the following year. We’re also asking for His judgements that were passed due to our transgressions the previous year to be lifted. We’re praying for a new year filled with blessings and prosperity.

Our meals over this two day holiday are sweet and warm and inviting. Special challah bread loaves are prepared and dipped in honey in lieu of salt, and apple slices dipped in honey are enjoyed as a symbol of inviting in a sweet new year. Our spirits are festive and jovial, while also remaining aware of, and being in awe of being chosen without ever having earned such a wonderful gift. There are numerous dietary variations within different aspects of Judaism, but the earnest point of all is the celebration of being given the gift of eternal life with our Creator.

With respect to the fact that no one can predict the return of the Messiah, there is an argument that exists, suggesting that the return of Yeshua Hamashiach will occur during Rosh Hashanah. The argument is loosely based on the multiple shofar blasts, the first and last day of the “descent of man”, and a two day holiday explaining the unknown day or time conundrum. As previously stated, no one can, nor should, try to predict the Messiah’s return; however, it is worth considering when debating on where you are when He returns. An extra reason to be at the Synagogue celebrating the beginning of the High Holidays, if one needed an extra reason.

This year, the festivities begin, according to the Gregorian calendar, on the evening of September 20th, 2017. The following evening is the head of the year 5778, starting with 1 Tishrea. Rosh Hashanah is followed by 10 days of repentance, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah.