Rosh Hashanah 
Rosh Hashanah (in Hebrew)

Level: Basic

Significance: New Year
Observances: Sounding the shofar (ram's horn trumpet)
Length: 2 Days (Some: 1 Day)
Customs: Dipping apples in honey; Casting off "sins" into a river
Greeting: L'shanah tovah! (For a good year!)
...In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation. -Leviticus 16:24

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. 

There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. More on this concept at Days of Awe.

The name "Rosh Hashanah" is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.

Shofar: Click to hear it blow!The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, "big tekiah"), the final blast in a set, which lasts,10 seconds minimum. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar's sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayerbook called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.

Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. This was the second Jewish religious practice I was ever exposed to (the first one: lighting Chanukkah candles), and I highly recommend it. It's yummy. We also dip bread in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.

Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before afternoon services. When the first day occurs on Shabbat, many synagogues observe Tashlikh on Sunday afternoon, to avoid carrying (the bread) on Shabbat.

Services for the holiday focus on the concept of God's sovereignty.

The common greeting at this time is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." More on that concept at Days of Awe.

You may notice that the Bible speaks of Rosh Hashanah as occurring on the first day of the seventh month. The first month of the Jewish calendar is Nissan, occurring in March and April. Why, then, does the Jewish "new year" occur in Tishri, the seventh month?

Judaism has several different "new years," a concept which may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American "new year" starts in January, but the new "school year" starts in September, and many businesses have "fiscal years" that start at various times of the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).

See Extra Day of Jewish Holidays for an explanation of why this holiday is celebrated for two days instead of the one specified in the Bible.

List of Dates

Rosh Hashanah will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:

  • Jewish Year 5775: sunset September 24, 2014 - nightfall September 26, 2014
  • Jewish Year 5776: sunset September 13, 2015 - nightfall September 15, 2015
  • Jewish Year 5777: sunset October 2, 2016 - nightfall October 4, 2016
  • Jewish Year 5778 2018September 9 at sundown - nightfall on September 11

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  • This is awesome to learn about others in how they worship God, and as I am reading, I see a continuance in all that they do. That’s great, they have certain holidays that they prepare for and do this faithfully. Grant you this will take a serious study to comprehend all the material. But it’s amazing how they take their ways so serious.  Sometimes I feel and this is just me, American’s take things for granted, we do what we want, when we want, and sometimes don’t acknowledge nothing. There are things God states in His Word for us to do, stand on, speak and so forth. There is such a thing that is call steadfast – the scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:58-Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Thank You Lord.

    • Blessings and GM Pastor Patricia, you said the key words, America is spoiled and the people, do not reverence God the way they supposed too. The people walk around in a me mentality, instead of a WE mentality. It is not a me thing, it's a We thing. I pray you caught this in the spirit. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Angels, the Heavens, the Dimensional Realms, the Kingdom, the Universe, and then the people is last. In this millennia people are putting their wants, and needs above everything else that is a top notch priority. My God to thee

  • Dear LORD I need to study more about the Jewish New Year some of the language I don't understand AMEN.

  • Syllabus notes:

    There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. More on this concept at Days of Awe.

    So the similarities between America's New Year's and the Jewish New Year's would be the resolutions and I can definitely see how one would want to reflect back on one's past and self evaluate so that you can begin to look forward and make those changes in your life in order to move forward because you don't want to keep going around the same Mountain over and over again because God is requiring a change in a shifting is taking place. I keep reading about the shofar is like the Ram's Horn and how it plays a significant part in the Jewish history and the sound the different ways that the shofar is blown at different times and so it's important to note that just blowing the shofar aimlessly without knowledge on the significance of it and the spirituality of blowing the shofar, I don't think should be blown. I don't think it should be blown without really being led by the Holy Spirit. 

    Judaism 101: Days of Awe
    Learn about the period of introspection from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, known as the Days of Awe.
  • AMEN this is interesting being that now is lent season a time of fasting and prayer for 40 days.

  • I don't know what to say about this article except Ive got a lot to learn MAN!

  • a good article with lots of information that I did not know about. Thank you for sharing.

  • Informative reading and I must purchase me a Shofar for my prayer time. 

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