The Facts About Rosh Hashanah Traditions

The Facts About Rosh Hashanah Traditions

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Rosh Hashanah Traditions

In the facts about  Rosh Hashanah we will uncover the Rosh Hashanah traditions and more.

What Is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashana is the start of the Jewish New year. It falls during September and begins a month long celebration including Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Rosh Hashana is a two day celebration on which we celebrate the start of the new Jewish year. The date of Rosh Hashana is the first and second of Tishrei. 

What Happens On The Festival?

Firstly we celebrate with family and friends to celebrate the start of the New Year. Traditional foods include round Challah bread, shaped like a crown. Apples dipped into honey over which we bless family and friends for a Shana Tova Umetukah – A sweet and good year. Fish and meat is eaten, with a focus on sweet foods for a sweet new year and we do Tashlich.

Secondly we start the New Year by Crowning Hashem King of the world and that we are His subjects. This is highlighted in the text of the prayers that we recite in Shul, as well as by the  sounding of the Shofar which sounds like a trumpet heralding the King.

The Shofar Sounds and It’s Meaning

The special mitzvah of the day is to hear the Shofar. The tradition is to hear 100 sounds throughout the day.

Over the two days we will sound the Shofar 100 times each day.

The Shofar sounds are 4 in total:

Tekiah: a straight note

Shevarim a broken note of three short blasts

Teruah a staccato of 9 quick notes

and the Tekiah Gedolah an extended straight sound to complete the set of blasts.

The Rosh Hashanah Services.

We use a different prayer book called a Machzor. The word Machzor means to return and means that we return to this prayer book every year. One can also suggest that through this prayer book we return to Hashem. The curtains and the Torah covers are changed to white, to symbolise the holiness of the year.

The structure of the services follows the normal Shabbat service with two major differences:

  1. The sounding of the Shofar.
  2. The longest silent Amidah prayer, which highlights the three key themes of the day:
    1.  Malchuyot- kingship crowning Hashem King of the world.
    2. Zichronot- that Hashem remembers our actions. 
    3. Shofarot that the day is filled with sounds of the Shofar.

Rosh Hashanah Seder/ Simanim

It’s traditional on both Rosh Hashanah nights to have a Rosh Hashanah seder. The seder is made up of various fruits and vegtables that we bless the new year with otherwise known in Hebrew as the Simanim – the symbols. For example the famous apple and honey for a sweet new year. You can download your free Rosh Hashana printable for the Seder here. 

Rosh Hashanah Simanim

What Do I Wear On Rosh Hashana?

It’s customary to wear white on the HIgh Holy Days. White is a symbol of purity. We are coming to our King pure, just like we done the shul, the bimah and ark in white.

Do I Light Candles On Rosh Hashanah?

ighting candles on Rosh Hashanah

Yes, we light candles on this festival, just like every other festival. When we light the candles it’s slightly different than on Shabbat. On shabbat we light and cover our eyes, on chag – the festivals that do not fall on Shabbat and we are allowed to move fire, we first make the blessing of the candles and then light them. We also have the added yartzeit candleblessing of Shehecheyanu . 

As you are allowed to move fire you can light the candles from a pre exsisting flame and they should be lit by the time you sit down for the meal, unlike Shabbat where they need to be lit 18 minutes before sunset. Note, you are not allowed to blow out or extinguish the flame, so ensure that you have a place to put the match down, without putting it out first.  

As Rosh Hashanah is two nights, we need to light candles on the second night as well, but this time it needs to be from a pre exsiting flame. The way to do this is before chag starts light a Yartzeit candle which burns for 48 -72 hours (depending on which one you get). We have discovered that its best to use the 72 hour one. 

Here is the blessing to say over the candles on both nights

ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקנו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצותיו להדליק נר של יום טוב

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov.

Meaning: Blessed are you, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of the Day of Remembrance.

And after this blessing we say Shehchiyanu

ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקנו מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגעינו לזמן הזה

Barukh ata adonai elohenu melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh

Meaning: Blessed are you, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and let us reach this time.

Why Say Shehecheyanu On The Second Night

One of the most powerful blessings we have is the blessing of Shehecheyanu, we thank Hashem that we are alive and able to celebrate this new festival or event.

The blessing is said after the blessing over the wine -kiddush as part of the declaration recited at the start of the festival.

The blessing is also recited before we engage in a mitzvah for the first time in a year. For example the first time we sound the shofar or shake the lulav or eat matzah. 

The question then becomes what to do on the second night? We have already enjoyed one day of yom tov. We have already heard the shofar. Why then do we recite the blessing of shehecheyanu on the second night?

An answer is that it relates to kavod yom tov- to honor the Second day of Yom Tov. If we don’t say the blessing, we are stating that the second night/ day is not important.

On the other hand we have already acknowledged that we are thankful for the gift of being alive for this festival. The custom therefore is to add something new to the second night, either a new fruit or new clothes.

Why Do We Have A Round Challah On Rosh Hashanah?

round challah

Every Shabbat we eat a braided challah, yet on Rosh Hashanah we change the shape to round. This is because the year is round. Rosh Hashanah is full of symbolism, especially food, and eating a round challah is another one. On Rosh Hashana we crown G-d the King and the round challah looks like a crown. We are crowning G-d as our king. 

May you all have a sweet and wonderful year filled with happiness and health and may you all be inscribed in the book of life.




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