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Rosh Hashanah 5771 / 5772

Rosh Hashanah 5771 / 5772

Rosh Hashanah begins this year on Wednesday evening, September 28, and continues through nightfall of September 30. What follows is a how-to guide to the basics of Rosh Hashanah observance.

The festival of Rosh Hashanah — the name means “Head of the Year” — is observed for two days beginning on Tishrei 1, the first day of the Jewish year. It is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G-d’s world.

Rosh Hashanah thus emphasizes the special relationship between G-d and humanity: our dependence upon G-d as our creator and sustainer, and G-d’s dependence upon us as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, “all inhabitants of the world pass before G-d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court, “who shall live, and who shall die… who shall be impoverished, and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” But this is also the day we proclaim G-d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe is dependent upon the renewal of the divine desire for a world when we accept G-d’s kingship each year on Rosh Hashanah.

The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, which also represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance; for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man’s first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Altogether, we listen to 100 shofar blasts over the course of the Rosh Hashanah service.

Additional Rosh Hashanah observances include: a) Eating a piece of apple dipped in honey to symbolize our desire for a sweet year, and other special foods symbolic of the new year’s blessings. b) Blessing one another with the words Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” c) Tashlich, a special prayer said near a body of water (an ocean, river, pond, etc.) in evocation of the verse, “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” And as with every major Jewish holiday, after candlelighting and prayers we recite Kiddush and make a blessing on the Challah.


Rosh Hashanah Guide:

Day Before Rosh Hashanah
Selichot: The recitation of Selichot — a series of penitential prayers and liturgy recited daily in preparation for the Days of Awe — reaches its climax with the recitation of the “Zechor Brit” (“Remember Your Covenant”) Selichot on the day before Rosh Hashanah. (Click here for more about Selichot.)

This day’s Selichot, which is slightly lengthier than the preceding days’, is customarily said in the very early hours of the morning. In most synagogues, the Selichot are immediately followed by the morning prayers.

Shofar-less
The shofar is not sounded on the day before Rosh Hashanah (as it is every day throughout the previous month of Elul), to separate between the shofar soundings of the month of Elul — which are a minhag, or “custom” — and the Rosh Hashanah soundings, which are a biblically ordained mitzvah.

Another reason given for not sounding the shofar on this day is in order to confuse Satan, the supernal prosecutor, as he prepares his case against us for tomorrow’s Day of Judgment. The blowing of the shofar is a great weapon in our arsenal. When Satan sees that we are so confident that we will be victorious on the Day of Judgment that we don’t even find it necessary any more to sound the shofar, he is utterly confounded and loses confidence in his carefully prepared case.

Annulment of Vows

After the morning prayers, it is customary to perform a ceremony known as Hatarat Nedarim (“the annulment of vows”) to repeal certain vows which one has taken upon oneself so that one can begin the Day of Judgment free from the sin of unfulfilled vows.

Certain vows which one has accepted upon oneself can, legally, be repealed by a court of three people. Many communities, including Chabad, have the custom of doing so before an assembly of ten individuals. The person approaches the panel and declares that he had possibly accepted vows upon himself, but had he known that he would be unable to fulfill them, he would never have accepted them upon himself. The person is then told three times that his vows are annuled.

(In Sephardic communities, it is customary to repeal one’s vows twice each year: forty days before Rosh Hashanah, on the 19th of Av; and forty days before Yom Kippur, on the 1st of Elul.)

Ask for Help
On the day before Rosh Hashanah it is customary to visit the graves of tzaddikim (righteous, saintly people) and there to pray for a sweet new year. We ask the tzaddikim to intercede On High on our behalf, and we pray to G-d to have mercy on us in the merit of these righteous people at whose resting places we are standing.

Visit a Mikvah
It is customary for men to visit a mikvah (ritual pool) on this day, to be purified before entering the High Holy Days. Speak to your rabbi to find out mikvah hours in your location.

Psalms
On the day before Rosh Hashanah, every spare moment should be spent reciting Psalms. Thus, one already enters the new year with a clean slate. The continuous Psalms recitation should continue throughout the 48 hours of Rosh Hashanah.

Eruv Tavshilin
It is forbidden on a holiday to do any act in preparation for the following day, even if the following day is Shabbat. However, the sages created a halachic device, called an eruv tavshilin, which allows one to cook food on a holiday day for use on a Shabbat that immediately follows it.

If a holiday day — whether the first or second day of a holiday — falls on a Friday, an eruv tavshilin is set aside on the day preceding the holiday (Wednesday or Thursday afternoon), so that we will be permitted to prepare for Shabbat (cooking as well as any other necessary preparations) on the holiday. Only one eruv is required per household.

This year (5772-2011), Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and Friday, so an eruv tavshilin is made on Wednesday afternoon before the holiday candles are kindled.

This eruv consists of a challah or two matzahs, and a cooked food, such as meat, fish, or an unpeeled hard-boiled egg.

Click here for the eruv tavshilin procedure, and here for more on eruv tavshilin.

Rosh Hashana Eve
Light Holiday Candles
Girls and all women that are in the house (or if there isn’t a woman in the house, the head of the household), light candles to usher in each night of the holiday, and then Shabbat. Follow this link for detailed holiday candle-lighting time information, and this link for local candle lighting times.

Candle Lighting Blessings

Blessings for September 28 and 29, 2011:

1) Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam asher ki-deshanu be-mitzvo-tav ve-tzvi-vanu le-hadlik ner shel Yom Hazikaron.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the candle of the Day of Remembrance.

(Note: When reciting the following blessing on the second night of the holiday, one should have in mind the new fruit which one will subsequently be eating after Kiddush.)

2) Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam she-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-yi-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

New Year Greetings
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to greet one another with blessings and good wishes of Leshana tova tekatev v’etachetem — May you be inscribed for a good year!

Rosh Hashanah Eve Meal
Kiddush

New Fruit
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a “new fruit,” i.e., a seasonal fruit which we have not yet tasted since its season began, should be present on the table when the holiday candles are kindled and during the kiddush. While reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing after candle-lighting and after the kiddush, one should have the new fruit in mind.

Challah in Honey
Immediately following the kiddush (and on the second night, the eating of the new fruit), we perform the ritual washing for bread. After reciting the Hamotzie blessing, cut the challah, dip it in honey (some also dip it in salt), and have a bite. Pass around pieces and make sure everyone does the same.

Symbolic Foods
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, after eating the challah with honey, it is customary to eat several foods which symbolize the type of year we wish to have:

We dip a piece of sweet apple into honey. Before eating it we say:

Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam bore pri ha-etz.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Ye-hi ratzon she-ti-cha-desh alei-nu shanah tovah u-m’tu-kah.

May it be Your will to renew for us a good and sweet year.

A head of a fish, ram, or other kosher animal, is served. This symbolizes our desire to be at the “head of the class” this year.

A pomegranate is eaten, symbolizing our wish to have a year full of mitzvot and good deeds as a pomegranate is filled with luscious seeds.

Rosh Hashanah Cuisine
On Rosh Hashanah it is customary not to eat foods which are sour or tart (the gefilte fish will have to do without the horseradish…). Instead, the focus is on sweet foods, symbolizing our desire to have a sweet year, blessings and abundance. It is also customary not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts (“egoz”) is the same as the Hebrew word for sin (“chet”).

Click here for traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes.

Click here for Rosh Hashanah foods according to Sephardic custom.

Shofar-Call to Action

Cast Away Your Sins – Tashlich
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after the afternoon prayer, we go to a lake, river or sea (preferably a body of water that has fish), and recite the Tashlich prayers, wherein we symbolically cast our sins into the water and leave our old shortcomings behind us, thus starting the new year with a clean slate.

If one is unable to perform this ceremony on Rosh Hashanah, one may do so until the last day of Sukkot (this year, October 19, 2011).

Shabbat Shuvah
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, “Shabbat of Return,” because its special haftorah reading begins with the words Shuvah Yisrael, “Return O Israel.” It is also referred to as Shabbat Shuvah because it falls during the Ten Days of Repentance.

Fast of Gedaliah
On Sunday, October 2, 2011 (the 4th of Tishrei), all men and women over the age of bar/bat mitzvah fast from dawn until nightfall, in commemoration of the assassination of Gedaliah, governor of Judea.

Useful Rosh Hashanah Links:

Rosh Hashanah Mega-Site

Global Rosh Hashanah Service & Event Finder

Holiday Study & Insights

Rosh Hashanah Stories

Rosh Hashanah Kids’ Zone

Traditional Rosh Hashanah Recipes

Rosh Hashanah Audio Classes, Videos & Songs

The Ohmygossip.com staff wishes you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!





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