The Meaning of “Rosh Hashana”

Today is Rosh Hashana, the day that marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  At sunset today, families and friends will gather to pray and then eat the traditional honey and apples, which symbolize the hope for a sweet new year.

Rosh Hashana comes from Hebrew and most simply put means “beginning of the year.”

Why isn’t the Jewish New Year on December 31st? The Hebrews used a lunisolar calendar long before the Gregorian calendar established the system used in other places around the world. The Jewish calendar contains 12 months and consists of 353 to 355 days, instead of 365 or 366.

One tradition of the holiday is the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn that doubles as a wind instrument. Historically, the shofar’s uses varied from communicating signals in battle to announcing the beginning of the Sabbath. Now, it’s primarily used at synagogue services at this time of year.

The word “shofar” is from Hebrew, and it’s related to the Arabic word sawafiru, which means “ram’s horn.”

At sundown on October 11, Jews will observe Yom Kippur, which means “day of atonement.” During Yom Kippur, observers abstain from eating and drinking and participate in daylong prayers of repentance. Forgiveness is asked for sins committed during the year.

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