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Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish Year 5780: “Today is the birthday of the world, today the world stands in judgment.”

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Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. It begins at sundown. While non-Jews consider this the year 2019, for the Jewish people it is the year 5780. Posting will be light, as I have brisket to braise and honey cake to bake.

This Sunday evening Jews around the world will begin the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Throughout the holiday, Jews of every conceivable background and belief – social, demographic, religious, ethnic and cultural – will hear the loud, piercing blast of the shofar. The job of the shofar is to wake us from our spiritual slumber, to make us fully alert.

Immediately after the shofar blasts we say Hayom harat olam, hayom ya’amid bamishpat – “Today is the birthday of the world, today the world stands in judgment.” What a powerful set of images. On one hand, it is the world’s birthday and we are free to start again with a clean slate.

The festival of Rosh Hashanah—the name means “Head of the Year”—is observed for two days beginning on 1 Tishrei, the first day of the Jewish year. It is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G‑d’s world. (Chabad)

In the Jewish oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of the creation of the world.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, or Yamim Noraim (the “Days of Awe“), and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the “day of atonement.” The Mishnah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of judgment,” and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are viewed as an opportunity for Jews to repent (teshuvah, in Hebrew) and ensure a good fate.

Jews traditionally gather in synagogues on Rosh Hashanah for extended services that follow the liturgy of a special prayerbook, called a mahzor, that is used during the Days of Awe. At specific times throughout the service, a shofar, or ram’s horn, is blown. The mitzvah (commandment) to hear the shofar, a literal and spiritual wake-up call, is special to this time of year.

The new year is the only Jewish holiday that is observed for two days by all Jews (other holidays are observed for just one day within the Land of Israel) as it is also the only major holiday that falls on a new moon (here)

Wishing all of my readers a sweet and happy new year. May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life.

 

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