What is Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah is translated as "Head of the Year" and is the Jewish New Year. It falls on the first and second day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. In the Gregorian calendar, Rosh Hashanah falls out in the months of September or October.
What is the source for Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah, the New Year and Day of Judgement as it is known today, is not described in such terms in the Bible. It was due to Rabbinic decree that Rosh Hashanah is considered the beginning of the Jewish year, despite the fact that the month it falls in, Tishrei, is actually the seventh month. One viewpoint is that just as the Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week, so too, on the seventh month we celebrate the Sabbath of the year.
The Jewish Sages viewed Rosh Hashanah as the anniversary of the day on which the world was created and such is the tradition that has been passed down. Rosh Hashanah also marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Penitence leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the day on which the Jews pray for forgiveness for their sins from the past year and plead for a good year ahead. Rosh Hashanah is therefore a holiday on which Jewish people make an accounting of the past year and ask for forgiveness for wrongdoings.
What is the Rosh Hashanah Liturgy?
The prayers on Rosh Hashanah are the second-longest of the year. The prayer services run from early morning until early afternoon. The prayers are unlike any other during the year and there are special prayer books just for Rosh Hashanah called Machzorim which are used.
Two particularly significant prayers on Rosh Hashanah are Unetaneh Tokef and Avinu Malkeinu. Unetaneh Tokef is a chilling prayer that talks of the fact that today is the day on which the fate of each and every person in the world is decided. Avinu Malkeinu is a prayer of supplication to G-d in which each line begins with Avinu Malkeinu, meaning Our Father, Our King.
What are symbols of Rosh Hashanah?
The shofar is an undeniably classic symbol of Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is a horn of a kosher animal that is blown in synagogue on both days of Rosh Hashanah. The goal of the sounding of the shofar is to stir the people's hearts and cause them to return to G-d.
Apple dipped in honey is another significant symbol. It represents our hopes in meriting a sweet new year.