“You who are asleep, wake up. You who are in a trance, arise. Search your doings and repent. Remember Your Creator you who forget constant truth in vanities of the hour and indulge all year in trifles which cannot profit or save, look rightly I into your souls. Amend your ways and your deeds; let each of you give up his evil course and purpose."
— Moses Maimonides
The apple is dipped into the honey, which symbolizes, as in so many cultures, the universal hope and wish that life tomorrow and the days following will be sweeter.
At sundown this coming Sunday, Sept. 9, the plaintive call of the shofar, or ram’s horn, will be heard in synagogues all over the world, ushering in the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “the head of the year,” is celebrated on the first and second days of the autumn month of Tishri (seventh month on the Jewish calendar). The word “Tishri” is derived from a Babylonian word meaning “to begin.” This holiday is described as a one-day festival in the Bible and observed as such by Reform Jews. Because of the difficulty in determining exactly when the new moon appears, Rosh Hashanah became a two-day celebration in Israel and among Conservative and Orthodox Jews.
The High Holidays, called thus because of their extreme importance, will last for 10 days — a solemn period filled with contemplation, humility and self scrutiny. It is a period of reverence and prayer and a time to reflect on one’s actions. The Zodiac symbol for the month of Tishri is the balance scale, which indicates that our fate as individuals and nations hangs in balance and will be determined during these special days set aside for soul searching.
The sounding of the shofar is the central ritual of Rosh Hashanah, and it is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to hear its weeping, groaning sounds, which give cause to stir those who have become complacent in their duties and responsibilities to try to find meaning and fulfillment. Traditionally, the shofar is sounded 100 times during the service. There is a legend that says the piercing sound of the ram's horn (shofar) is a reminder of the story of Abraham, who out of his love for God was prepared to sacrifice his only son, Issac. He was permitted, however, by an understanding God, to sacrifice a ram in place of his son.
It is a Jewish belief that there is a Book of Life in Heaven in which the actions, words and thoughts of every human being is written and carefully examined. This record is the basis upon which the fate of each person is decided for the coming year.
Many culinary customs are associated with this holiday. One of the traditional favorites is the eating of sweet food; pieces of apple symbolizing the “Shekinah,” the in-dwelling spirit, are dipped into honey (hallah bread is also used).
The pomegranate is enjoyed especially in modern day Israel. The blood and seeds symbolize fertility and fruitfulness, as do sesame seeds and many other edible types of seeds.
A round hallah, representing the wheel of fate and the oneness of God, is popular at this holiday, although some prefer the ladder hallah, which represents the ascending of one's life.
Rosh Hashana 5779 — With the echo of the shofar's crying out message of reflection, repentance and responsibility permeating the sanctuary, a people will once again stand together with heads held high, looking to the future with hope and faith for peace and prosperity for all mankind.