We all strive to continue moving forward in life.
As they say:
If you are not moving forwards...
You are moving backwards...
The Jewish New Year is a Festival.
Where Jews sit together and help bless everyone to have:
A Sweet New Year.
One Month Before The Jewish New Year
The last month before we reach The Jewish New Year is Elul.
The month of Elul is known to be the month of Teshuva (repentance).
The Teshuva that is done before the Jewish New Year is not only to ask G-d to forgive you for all the bad things that you did.
Rather, you want to arouse a blessing so that when it comes to Rosh Hashanah,
You receive a blessing for a sweet New Year filled with all the things you wish for.
So, in the build up to Rosh Hashanah,
You want to do an awakening from below.
When you do an awakening from below:
You create an awakening from The Above.
The Jewish New Year
The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah.
Morning of Rosh Hashanah
On the morning of Rosh Hashanah, Jews should be busy doing Teshuva (repentance).
This can be done by:
- Pray Shacharit
- Give to Charity
- Go to a Righteous Jewish Grave (if nearby)
- Call someone you know to apologise if you have hurt them
Here is another great suggestion by Rabbi Alon Anava:
Sit with yourself for an hour.
Take piece of paper and a pen.
Write down everything you know you did in the past year that you are not proud of.
Then, write down the things that you would WISH to do.
And also all the things you had as a resolution the previous year that you didn't do.
Invest the 60 minutes to write it down because when you write it down, it puts your thoughts in a very organised way.
It is important for men before Rosh Hashanah to do the following:
- Have a haircut
- Cut their nails
- Go to the Mikvah.
It's extremely important to check what days Rosh Hashanah falls under.
Because Rosh Hashanah is attached to Shabbat, we need to do the Bracha that allows us to be able to cook on Friday, for Shabbat.
You are not allowed to prepare food for Shabbat on a Festival, unless you do the appropriate prayer that Rabbi Alon Anava explains below:
Note: You STILL need to do this Bracha even if you are not planning on eating because you still might be drinking coffee or making tea
Afternoon of Rosh Hashanah
Another important thing to do, if possible, is to Pray Mincha.
The reason for this is because it is the last Prayer of the Jewish Year.
So, you want to make sure you are sealing the Year with a Prayer.
Throughout Rosh Hashanah
Throughout the 48 Hours of Rosh Hashanah, you want to minimize mundane talking.
Any free moment that you have, you want to be reading Tehilim (The Book of Psalms).
Another important thing is:
We change a lot of the words during the Prayers throughout Rosh Hashanah and it also carries through the following 10 days of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance).
Rosh Hashanah Meal
On Rosh Hashanah, Jewish families and friends eat a meal together.
The meal will usually be in a families home but it could also be at the Synagogue.
The meal is a regular meal but we also add certain Jewish Customs.
The common Jewish Customs during the Rosh Hashanah meal include:
- Dip the Apple in the Honey
- Eat Pomegranates Seeds
- Eat the head of a Ram/Sheep/Fish
There is a Custom to make sure the meal that is cooked on Rosh Hashanah is not sour, bitter or salty.
Some Jews do not put any salt or vinegar in the meal.
The reason for this is because we want things to only be sweet on Rosh Hashanah so that we bring upon us a Sweet New Year.
The Shofar is a ram's horn.
It is the Mitzvah of the day that Jews hear the Shofar being blown on Rosh Hashanah.
It is very important to know that:
During the Shofar being blown,
You cannot talk.
When you hear the Bracha being said during the Shofar being blown
You must have in mind as if YOU are saying it.
Listening to the Shofar is the Jews ticket to sweetening the judgement.
Why do Jews blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah?
Jews blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind them of the sacrafice of Isaac.
Avraham took Yitzchak to sacrafice Isaac. The Story says that then he found a Ram.
And he sacraficed the Ram instead.
One of the Ram's horns is kept for Mosiach to blow when he arrives.
And the other Ram's horn is used many times in history.
So, Jews blow the Shofar to remind G-d
That the Jews are the descendants of Avraham and it should work for us as a merit when we are standing in front of you.
Here is a fascinating story shared by Rabbi Alon Anava which further explains the reason:
Another explanation for why Jews blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is:
To confuese the prosecutor.
The concept of this explanation is that Satan collects notes throughout the year for all the bad things that you did.
Then when Jews blow the Shofar in the day,
The air that is coming out of the Shofar reaches to the heavens.
Satan has all his notes that he stacked up over the year...
And the air blows over all of Satan's notes.
Then by the time he reorganises them...
G-d has already made His Judgements.
Signifiance of Rosh Hashanah
On Rosh Hashanah,
Everything is decided.
Who's going to live?
Who's going to die?
Who's going to be rich?
Who's going to be poor?
Who's going to be happy?
Who's going to be sad?
Whatever the option is, it is decided by G-d on Rosh Hashanah.
And this is why it is called "Judgement Day".
It is the day when G-d judges us.
And a lot of people take this day as just another day.
But those that understand the importance of this day, make sure they are doing Teshuva (repentance) on the 30 days before "Judgement Day".
On Rosh Hashanah, we sweeten the judgements.
Is Everything Judged on Rosh Hashanah?
Rabbi Yehuda's opinion on this the following:
Yes, on Rosh Hashanah WE are being judged.
But the actual effects happen throughout the year as follows:
- Pesach - Everything to do with crops (wheat and grain)
- Shavuot - Everything to do with trees (fruit and vegetables)
- Sukkot - Everything to do with water
- Rosh Hashanah - Everything to do with ourselves
Rabbi Yehuda says that everything is more or less decided on Rosh Hashanah but all these periods throughout the year are when the judgements are sealed.
Why do Jews Pray Everyday?
It is a good question.
If Jews' Judgement is made on Rosh Hashanah, why do they Pray everyday?
Rabbi Alon Anava explains that the Judgement made from Above is staying in the World Above and does not manifest into the World below.
One of the reasons why Jews Pray throughout the year is to start bringing the blessings into the world.
So for example,
If G-d decides on Rosh Hashanah that you are going to become rich this year,
It does not mean you are going to get that money.
It means that money is sitting in a Heavenly Bank.
And you need to PULL the blessing into the world.
The word blessing in Hebrew is Bracha.
But Bracha comes from the world Breycha - Pond
Because all the blessing is sitting in this Pond.
And now, you need to come everyday, and manifest it into the real world by Praying.
Here is an incredble story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe that helps explain why Jews must Pray everyday:
Why do Jews dip Apples in Honey?
Jewish Sages explain that the apple is a very special fruit.
Apples have three qualities that most fruit don't have:
- 1) It's aesthetically pleasing fruit to look at
- 2) It's got a very nice smell
- 3) It's a very tasty, juicy fruit
The Ben Ish Chai (Yosef Hayyim) explains that these three qualities are the qualities that we want to arouse on Rosh Hashanah.
On Rosh Hashanah, we have three Prayers that we are concentrating on:
- 1) Kids Either we want to have kids and after we have them, we want our kids to be healthy.
- 2) Life It's not only to live, but to live good without any physical problems.
- 3) Livelihood / Income In Hebrew the term is "Parnassa". It is essentially asking for money to support our needs and our families needs.
These are the three titles we Pray on Rosh Hashanah and the three qualities that the Apple has:
These qualities activate this Prayer.
So, when we take an Apple, it is cancelling the judgements
And then when we dip the Apple into honey...
We are actually sweetening the judgements!
Why do Jews eat pomegranate seeds on Rosh Hashanah?
Jews eat pomegranate seeds on Rosh Hashanah so that the same way the pomegranate is full of seeds:
Jews should be full of Mitzvot for the upcoming year.
What are Mitzvot?
Mitzvot is plural for Mitzvah.
A Mitzvah translates to Commandment.
Jews are given 613 Mitzvot to do and it is encouraged for Jews to spend their day doing as many Mitzvot as possible.
Some examples of Mitzvot are: don't embarrass others, respect your elders and to not swear falsely.
Why do Jews eat Ram/Sheep/Fish head on Rosh Hashanah?
Jews eat the head of either a Ram, Sheep or Fish on Rosh Hashanah so that they may be at the head and not the tail for the upcoming year.
There you have it!
A deep dive into all things Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah).
If you are reading this closer to Rosh Hashanah then I wish you Shana Tov and a Sweet New Year!
Till next time!
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