L’shana tovah! Sundown on Sept. 18, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, will begin and ends at nightfall on Sept. 20.
While Georgia Tech doesn’t have a historically large population of Jewish students, many still recognize and celebrate the first of the High Holidays (“Days of Awe”).
Rosh Hashanah is observed as a day of rest and characterized by the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn.
In other words, the period of ten days including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are recognized as the Days of Repentance, which are the first ten days of the month of Tishrei.
These days of repentance are a time to examine one’s ways and try to improve one’s behaviors and actions in the anticipation of Yom Kippur.
This repentance can take form of morning prayers, fasting, charity or self-reflection. Rosh Hashanah is observed as a day of rest and characterized by the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn.
The sound of the shofar marks the end of the fast on Yom Kippur, and is blown at four particular occasions in the prayers on Rosh Hashanah.
Yom Kippur consists of a day of fasting, and intensive prayer in and out of synagogue. However, the High Holidays begin with the more joyous of the two holidays.
Rosh Hashanah, like any good holiday, is a time of delicious food, family, and prayer. The holiday is essentially creating a “clean slate” and a new start for the New Year.
The “new, fresh start” of Rosh Hashanah can be relatable to the American New Year. People create their resolutions, just as millions of Jews around the world begin a lifetime pact of hopeful beginnings.
Many Jewish families have similar traditions.
“[My family] has apples and honey, pomegranates, cooked tongue of a cow, black-eye beans, fish, and egg. We have a gathering two nights – the first night of Rosh Hashanah and the second night of Rosh Hashanah. During the day, we go to synagogue. We also blow the shofar,” said Sepura Dosetareh, a first- year BME.
The apples and honey are to symbolize a sweet new year and the fish and egg are for the destruction of the temple.
It is considered very important within the Jewish religion to attend synagogue on the new year. The Rosh Hashanah service is quite different from other services throughout the year and is a very unique ceremony.
Dosetareh said, “There are a lot people there [at temple], more than a usual Sabbath day. We also say different prayers. People are more joyful, but more cautious, because Rosh Hashanah is also a Day of Judgment, like Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah, like shabbos, is a day of rest, so you are not allowed to turn on fire, etc.”
Rosh Hashanah marks a fresh start for all, and most importantly, to begin a path of becoming a better person.
“The most important part of the holiday is that is the Jewish New Year. Jews and Non-Jews should give thanks to God for what they have in their lives, and try to take upon themselves something spiritual and good that they can do in the following year. Whether it is tutoring the disadvantaged or praying more…Rosh Hashanah is a time for people to recall what they did in the past year and set up a path to take in the future,” said Dosetareh.
As mentioned before, Rosh Hashanah is just the beginning of the High Holidays.
Dosetareh said, “Rosh Hashanah is also a day of judgment. The name of the righteous are written in the Book of life and then sealed on Yom Kippur and vise versa. It also initiates Yom Kippur and Sukkot, two huge holiday following the New Year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Judgment and Sukkot is the time we celebrate the exodus of Egypt.”
Noah Jaffe, a first year EE, said, “First of all, you go to synagogue and you listen to the shofar. The night before synagogue we have a big meal, and have apples and honey. One of the customs is you only have sweet things, so one time I went over to my rabbi’s house and we had gefilte fish and we didn’t have horseradish or pepper, basically no bitter things, to signify a new year. Rosh Hashanah gives me a chance to be away from classes and homework and spend time with my family.”
“[Services] are extra long. Usually the shofar is blown in the middle to give a symbolic gesture to show people the New Year is coming. Its like a wake up call to trigger all the other thoughts associated with Rosh Hashanah. There are a bunch of added prayers specially for Rosh Hashanah where you thank God for what he’s given you, asking him forgiveness, and asking him for a better year. The way I see religion is that it’s there to make you a better person. So when Rosh Hashanah comes around the main point is getting your ‘report card’ to see how well you did last year and see how you can be a better person, be nicer to people, and do better things. The bottom line is fixing your mistakes for the next year. It doesn’t matter how religious you are, it’s about how you treat others and how you’re growing as a person,” said Jaffe.
Rosh Hashanah is a holiday for celebration, happiness and family. Services are for signifying the New Year and recognizing that it’s time to wipe the slate clean.
Soon enough, it will be Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, a far more somber holiday. But for now, get ready to chop some apples, bring out the honey, congregate with friends and family, and bring in the year 5770.