How Is Rosh Hashanah Celebrated?

Traditions Of The Holiday

Every major Jewish holiday starts with lighting candles. Jewish women and girls (or men living alone) light candles on each evening of Rosh Hashanah with the appropriate blessings. This year, the first night of Rosh Hashanah is Friday night, so we light the holiday candles first and then the Shabbat candles. 

On Rosh Hashanah it is a commandment for Jews to hear the sound of the shofar (Num. 29:1). The shofar is an instrument made from the horn of a ram or other kosher animal. Its loud resonant sound pierces the depths of our soul and inspires us to return to God. The shofar is a wake-up call to repentance. It evokes the shofar blasts that were heard when God descended on Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. It also recalls the binding of Isaac, who was saved when God showed Abraham a ram to bring as an offering instead of his beloved son. 

Before each of the four festive Rosh Hashanah meals (two on each day), we make kiddush over wine or grape juice. We eat round challah, often with raisins, and dip it into honey rather than salt to express our wish for a sweet year. There are a variety of symbolic foods that are eaten, including a fish head so that โ€œwe might be a head and not a tailโ€ and pomegranate so that โ€œour merits be many like the seeds of a pomegranate.โ€ย 

Much of the day is spent in synagogue praying with the community. The Machzor (holiday prayerbook) contains all of the Rosh Hashanah prayers and Torah readings. The shofar is sounded 100 times during the Rosh Hashanah service (except on Shabbat.)

On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to go to a body of water and perform the Tashlich ceremony, in which we ceremonially cast our sins into the water, evoking the verse โ€œAnd You shall cast their sins into the depth of the sea.โ€ (Micah 7:19). If youโ€™re not able to do it on Rosh Hashanah, Tashlich can be performed until Hoshana Rabba (7th day of Sukkot.)

Share to

You Might Also Like

Sign Me Up

Sign me up!

Our newsletter goes out about twice a month, with links to our most popular posts and episodes.