Rosh Hashanah not only marks the beginning of the new year on the Jewish calendar, it is considered by the Jewish community to be one of the holiest and most special times of the year. If you are in Israel during this holiday, which occurs in late September or early October on the Gregorian calendar, you simply cannot miss the festivities.
Also called the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah commemorates God’s creation and acceptance of His power and sovereignty over the world. It is also the start of the Days of Awe, the time of judgment and repentance leading up to Yom Kippur. While most holidays in Israel only have one day on which businesses are closed, the country grinds to a complete halt for two days during Rosh Hashanah.
Beginning at sunset, Rosh Hashanah kicks off an almost month-long High Holy Day season. In Israel, Jewish families attend synagogue worship services and participate in prayers and songs in honor of the holiday. One of the highlights is the iconic blowing of the shofar 100 times in the synagogue, to remind worshippers of Abraham and Isaac’s faith, the commandments given on Mt. Sinai, and to call everyone to repentance. Visitors are welcome to attend any local synagogue to take part in the ceremony. If you happen to be in Jerusalem during this time, visit the Western Wall (Kotel) to experience thousands of people assembled to offer special prayers.
As is customary with all Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah has distinctive foods associated with the holiday. While this holy day focuses primarily on the synagogue and the coming together of families, you will be sure to receive an invitation to join a family for a large festive supper. Sweet foods feature prominently, to symbolize a sweet new year. Jewish bakeries are filled with holiday treats, such as the sweet, braided challah bread, oftentimes with raisins, which symbolizes the cycle of life. It is also traditional to enjoy apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, and honey cakes.
During this holiday season, be sure to wish people a Happy New Year in Hebrew by saying, “L’Shanah Tovah.” Literally, this means “to a good year.” The main thing is to wish others a good, sweet year with all your heart.