What Do We Celebrate On Rosh Hashana?
Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, is the day on which G-d completed the creation of this world, by creating Adam (the original man). Adam’s very first act was to proclaim G-d as King of the Universe. He called upon all creatures: “Come, let us worship, bow down, and kneel before G-d our maker”. Each Rosh HaShana, we too proclaim the kingship of G-d, and reaffirm our commitment to serve Him well.
WHAT HAPPENS ON THIS DAY?
On Rosh HaShana we all stand in judgement before G-d. On this day G-d judges all of us, Jews and non-Jews, religious and non-observant, alike. Metaphorically, two ‘books’ are open before G-d, the Book of Life and the Book of Death. G-d looks at our deeds for the past year. If we have done good deeds and kept G-d’s commandments, we are inscribed in the Book of Life.
The righteous are immediately included in the Book of Life, the wicked - in the Book of Death. But those of us who are not completely righteous, yet not totally wicked are given another last chance to be included in the Book of Life.
We have ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur to repent. We repent by looking into our actions, regretting the bad ones, and making a determination to start a new direction in life - by adhering to G-d’s Mitzvot.
In addition, prayer and charity can also remove a bad decree from the Heavens and grant us with a blessing for health, wellbeing, and prosperity for the coming year. On Yom Kippur the final decrees are written and the Books are sealed.
The Shofar (a ram’s horn) is blown on Rosh HaShana and is one of the most important commandments of the day. The sound of which slices through our heart and shakes us to the bone, reminds us of the awe-someness and solemnity of this day. Both men and women are obligated to listen to the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShana.
On the two nights of Rosh HaShana, the Sephardic Jews hold a mini-Seder in which specific foods are eaten while prayers are recited asking G-d to grant us a good, peaceful and bountiful year.
Some foods used are: apple dipped in honey for a sweet year, pomegranate for increasing the fulfillment of Mitzvot, leek to remove our enemies, and the head of a sheep for being spiritually elevated to the top.
During Rosh HaShana Jews greet each other with a special blessing: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” These words convey our wish that the person be included in the Book of Life and will have a prosperous year.