Know Your Neighbours: Rosh Hashanah

Know Your Neighbours: Rosh Hashanah

This weekend marks the start of the Jewish New Year. As a part of our ongoing ‘Know Your Neighbour’ series, we have put together a short blog for you on what Rosh Hashanah is all about.

What is Rosh Hashanah?

This festival is that which commemorates the Jewish New Year. This New Year, according to the Jewish calendar, will bring in the year 5776.

‘Rosh Hashanah’ literally means, “head of the year”.

When is Rosh Hashanah?

This Jewish New Year is timed according to the Jewish calendar, which is different from the one used by contemporary Western society, hence the festival doesn’t take place in January.

The festival takes place on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishri which means that Rosh Hashanah takes place around the autumn period. This year, Rosh Hashanah starts at sunset of September 13th.

Why is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

The festival celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world. The scriptural passage which sees the origins of this festival can be found in Leviticus 23, vs. 24-25; “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.” For this reason, Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets.

How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the ‘Ten Days of Awe’ which ends with The Day of Atonement, also known as ‘Yom Kippur’.

Jews will spend this time in serious introspection. They will consider their sins from the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. During this time it is important for Jews to seek forgiveness from those they have wronged before they can come to God and ask for forgiveness.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews will visit the synagogue for an extended service which includes the unique blowing of the Rams horn (Shofar). It is the blowing of this horn that starts the Days of Awe.

After the service at the synagogue, a special meal is hosted at home which includes a special ritual of dipping apples in honey as a symbol of the ‘sweet’ year that lies ahead.

The Hebrew common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is "Shanah Tovah", which, in Hebrew, means "[have a] good year."

Another popular practice of the festival is Tashlikh ("casting off"). This sees Jews go to a river or large body of running water and cast of bits of bread as a symbol of casting of the sins of the past year, so as to start anew. 

For a more musical version of the Rosh Hashanah story, see the below video.


Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 09 September 2015