Introduction to ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah’ (Part One)

Today in the evening, Jewish people from all around the globe will celebrate the Jewish New Year which is called in Hebrew ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah {ראש השנה}(literally means ‘the head of the year’).

‘Rosh Ha-Shanah’ is one of the most important dates in the Jewish-Hebrew calendar and it marks – besides the opening of a new year – the beginning of the ‘busiest’ holiday season of Judaism. This holiday season is known in the Jewish tradition as ‘Chagei Tish’rei’ {חגי תשרי} (‘Tishrei’s holidays’) – which means the FOUR biblical holidays of the Hebrew month of ‘Tishrei’: ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah, ‘Yom Kippur’, Succoth and ‘Shemini Atzert’ (we will talk about ALL of them when the time is right…).

The month of ‘Nissan’ {ניסן} which is called the month of ‘Abib’ {אביב}(Hebrew for ‘Spring’) is actually the FIRST month on the calendar. Tishrei’ is actually the SEVENTH month according to the original biblical calendar. It was determined as the New Hebrew Year (as we call it here in Israel) about two thousand years ago, mainly because of its ‘perfect agricultural timing’ right after the summer and at the beginning of autumn.

Rosh Ha-Shanah’s other name, or more accurate biblical name is ‘Yom Teruah’ {יום תרועה} which means ‘a day of blast the trumpet’ and refers to the main ritual of the holiday – the blowing the Shofar {שופר} – as can be found in the Book of Leviticus:

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:23-26)

Today ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah’ is celebrated for TWO days and not just one. The reason for that and further explanations about the different traditions and customs of this holiday will be discussed tomorrow…so stay tuned!

The customary greeting for ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah’ is ‘Shanah Tova U-Metukah’ {שנה טובה ומתוקה} – Hebrew for {I wish you} a ‘sweet and good year!’