Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Passover are the three holidays that almost all Jews celebrate. On these three holidays, whether religious or not, we take a break from the routine and sit down together to connect to our ancient mesorah. They are the three holidays that keep us united and distinguish us as a People. We call Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, kind of like January 1, the day that marks the beginning of a new year on the universal calendar. We even send greeting cards. But what is Rosh HaShana really all about?
Head of the Year
Rosh Hashana is a celebration of the day that humanity came into existence. When we dip the apple into the sweet honey, we ask for sweetness for ourselves and all human life.
Day of Judgment
Rosh HaShana is the day that the King leaves the field, where we have been speaking to him throughout all of Elul, and returns to His Palace. As we hear the powerful blast of the shofar, we are reminded that all of earth is being judged—people, animals, and the earth itself. But it is not a day to tremble in fear. This is a negative distortion of our Divine relationship. The judgment of Rosh HaShana is one of compassion and this is why it is also a day of celebration. It is sort of like a spiritual audit, with G-d being the ultimate auditor. He has invested in us, and now He comes to see how it has gone with His investment.
Two Days of Prayers
On Rosh HaShana you are lucky to find a seat in the synagogue and in most places outside of Israel, you have to purchase a seat in advance. If you are new to religious observance, the Rosh Hashana prayers can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you do not understand Hebrew. While it is best to keep up with the Cantor if you can, it is more important that you connect with G-d in your own words. Take advantage of breaks and use it to meditate and get close to the Divine Presence, just the two of you, one on one.
And then of course, there is the food…