Rosh HaShanah

Rosh HaShanah, as the Mahzor (High Holyday prayer book) tells us, is the birthday of the world - “Hayom Harat Olam”. One would think that the Book of Genesis, which recalls God’s creation, would be read on this holiday, but it is not. In fact, the Torah reading recited in the Synagogue recalls the birth of Isaac and the Haftarah, the birth of Samuel; both stories recount how barren women gave birth - tales of hope.

Although our liturgy refers to Rosh HaShanah as the birthday of the world, there is a tradition that Rosh HaShanah is not the day the world was created. An early Midrashic source, Pesikta Rabbati, states that the world was created on the 25th of Elul, (the month preceding Rosh HaShanah). Rosh HaShanah, which falls on the first of Tishrei, is then the sixth day of Creation, the day on which humans were created. According to this Midrash, the beginning of humanity is the real beginning of Creation. This Midrash helps us gain insight and focus on the deeper meaning of Rosh HaShanah.

On the first night of Rosh HaShanah, the table is set for the festival to include the following ritual items: candles and candlesticks, Kiddush cup and wine or grape juice, two round loaves of hallah, covered with a white hallah cover and apples and honey.

On the first night of Rosh HaShanah, we organize the rituals in the following way:
1. Light Holyday candles before going to synagogue
2. Attend services at synagogue
3. Recite Kiddush after coming home
4. Wash our hands and recite the blessing for hand washing
5. Recite the blessing for bread over the two hallot and dip the hallah in honey
6. Recite the blessing for fruit over the apple, dip it in honey and extend each other wishes for a good, healthy and sweet New Year

On the second night of Rosh HaShanah, we also add a new fruit, that is, a fruit we have not eaten since last year. Many people use pomegranates, because the large number of seeds symbolizes our prayer for a long life, filled with many worthwhile days and years. On this night, we follow the same order as the first day and then eat the piece of new fruit after eating the apple and honey.