For those of us who are not Jewish, the autumn can be a confusing time filled with Jewish holidays–some celebratory, others contemplative and somber. Last week, my Jewish friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah. I came acros this description of the holiday, as a recognition of the New Year, as well as a prepartion of Yom Kippur, the time of atonement. It provided a straightforward account of the holidays.
Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה), (literally “head of the year”), is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holidays or Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe”), celebrated ten days before Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It is described in the Torah as יום תרועה (Yom Teru’ah, a day of sounding [the Shofar]).
The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn. The shofar is sounded on both days of Rosh Hashanah (unless the first day of the holiday falls on Shabbat, in which case we only sound the shofar on the second day). The sounding of the shofar represents, among other things, the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king.
The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance; for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man’s first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which will culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Altogether, we listen to 100 shofar blasts over the course of the Rosh Hashanah service.