Rosh Hashanah - observed September - October
Though now one of the most important observances for those of the Jewish faith, it is surprising to note that this holiday is not named as such in the Hebrew Bible. The book of Ezekiel, dated from the sixth century BCE, is the only one to reference a celebration resembling the modern day Rosh Hashanah, but the celebration was not specifically named. Its context refers to a season of the year, not to a specific holiday. Rosh Hashanah, commonly referred to as the "Jewish New Year", is the start of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar. This is a time of rejoicing and serious introspection, a time to commemorate the start of a new year as well as to reflect on one's life.
One of four "New Year" observances in the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. This New Year is celebrated in fall because it was the time of year to plant crops. Jewish people of ancient times were very much connected to the land, and so planting time was considered the beginning of the year. The holiday is celebrated on the first day of the month of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which falls between September and October in the Gregorian calendar system. Just as the seventh day of the week (Saturday) is considered holy in the Jewish faith, the seventh month of the year is considered especially holy.
Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays, also known as "Yamim Noraim" (Days of Awe) or the Ten Days of Repentance. The Ten Days of Repentance begin with Rosh Hashanah and conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rabbinic literature describes Rosh Hashanah as a Day of Judgment, and of remembrance. Followers of Judaism worldwide examine their past deeds and ask for forgiveness for their sins and the sins of mankind as a whole. Forgiveness is offered to those seeking to be forgiven during this time of repentance. It is believed that on Rosh Hashanah, God opens his "Book of Life" or "Divine Book of Judgment", which remains open for the duration of the ten days. Then on Yom Kippur, only the names of the righteous are written in the Book of Life and the names of the unrighteous are blotted out. While Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment, the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur allow believers to right their wrongs, and atone for any misdeeds in their past before the final "verdict" is written into the "Book of Life" on Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on varying dates as it is observed 163 days after the first day of Passover, another Jewish holiday with a varying date in spring. For this reason, the earliest date on which Rosh Hashanah will fall is September 5. The latest Rosh Hashanah can occur, relative to the Gregorian calendar dates, is October 5. As is customary in Jewish celebrations, observance begins on nightfall the day before Rosh Hashanah. Both in modern and ancient times, the observance of Rosh Hashanah consists of prayer, ceremonial bathing, lighting of candles and the gathering of family members for a great meal. On the afternoon of the first day of the Ten Days of Repentance, the ritual Tashlikh is performed, in which sins are "cast" into open water, such as a river, sea, or lake. The casting of sins is symbolized by throwing breadcrumbs into a flowing body of water so that the water may carry away their sins, as instructed in the Torah verse "And you will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea". Prayer services during this time are typically longer than daily prayer services or on other Jewish holidays, and conclude with the blowing of the shofar horn one hundred times. The shofar typically made of a ram's horn makes a trumpet like sound and serves as a wake up call to the people to prepare for the holiday. The sounding of the shofar is a very essential part of the observance of Rosh Hashanah,
Now a named holiday with its own distinct rituals, the significance of the seasonal celebration of Rosh Hashanah has remained more or less the same since ancient times. The observance associated with the holiday has evolved from a celebration of a new year and the planting of new crops, to incorporate a highly ritualized day of repentance and forgiveness.
Click here to read some great quotes such as:
"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."
"The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle."
"We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. "