Rosh HaShana – The Jewish New Year

Reflections on Rosh HaShana, by Yoram Ettinger:

ROSH HASHANA REFLECTIONS, eve of 5766 (Oct. 3, 2005)

1. Rosh Hashana is a Jewish gift to humanity just like the Shabbat, the seven day week cycle, Yom Kippur and the Torah, which greatly impacted the Founding Fathers of the USA.

2. ROSH (Hashana) means in Hebrew “HEAD” – This is the day when one should exercise the head/brain, with the aim of concluding key decisions for the coming year.

3. (Rosh) HASHANA is a derivative of two Hebrew words, LISHNOT (to repeat) and SHINUI (a change) – While we go through a cycle of another year, we should not repeat past errors, but rather enhance the quality of our life through positive changes.

4. COMMEMORATION DAY (Yom Hazikaron in Hebrew) is one of the names of Rosh Hashana – One can avoid past mistakes and enhance future quality of life by examining history (roots, principles, values, precedents). The more one remembers, the deeper are the roots and the greater is one’s STABILITY and one’s capability to withstand storms of pressure and temptation. The more stable/calculated/moral is the head of the year (Rosh Hashana), the more constructive is the rest of the year.

Rosh Hashana commemorates:

*The appearance of the FIRST HUMAN BEING on the sixth day of The Creation;
*The opening of the Ark of Noah following The Flood;
*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (another Jewish gift to humanity – no human sacrifices);
*The release of Joseph (who is buried in northern Samaria, Nablus) from Egyptian jail;
*The laying of the cornerstone for the Second Temple;
*The beginning of the cycle of nature – seed planting – and equality of day and night (Rosh Hashana is the holiday of Rejuvenation & Reawakening);
*The three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were born during the first month of the year (Tishrey, which is called “The Month of the Strong Ones” (Nature and Patriarchs);
*The Patriarch Isaac and the Prophet Samuel were conceived in Tishrey;

5. STOCK TAKING (REPENTANCE) DAY (Yom Teshuva, Yom Hadeen in Hebrew) is another feature of Rosh Hashana, which is the first of the Ten Days of Atonement, culminating on Yom Kippur. TESHUVA means RETURN, which encompasses spiritual and physical qualities – Returning to core morality and returning to the Homeland. The more detached one is from one’s spiritual roots, the less attached is one to the physical homeland, susceptible to trade the homeland for political, diplomatic, military or economic short-term convenience. On Rosh Hashana one is expected to plan a “budget” for the entire year. The prerequisite for a wholesome “budget” is HUMILITY, without which one is incapable of objective “stock taking”. The three Hebrew words, Teshuva (repentance/atonement), Shiva (return) and Shabbat constitute a triangular personal and national foundation, whose strength depends on the level of Commemoration.

6. THE SHOFAR (ritual horn) is blown on Rosh Hashana. Shofar is a derivative of the Hebrew word for IMPROVEMENT (Shipur), which requires a blow of the Shofar to awaken one’s conscience. SOUL-SEARCHING requires HUMILITY, symbolized by the Shofar, which is not supposed to be decorated with silver or gold. There are three types of Shofar-blowing, commemorating the three patriarchs and the three types of human beings on judgment day (pious, evil and mediocre).


*The superiority of G-D;
*The pleading to G-D;
*The gift of the Torah at Mt. Sinai;
*The wisdom of the Prophets;
*The destruction of the Temples;
*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac;
*The human anxiety/fear;
*The Judgment Day;
*The spiritual and physical deliverance (The Shofar is made from the horn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped, but with strong horns in order to fend off wild animals);
*The reincarnation.

The Shofar used to lead nations to the battle field. On Rosh Hashana the Shofar leads individuals to the battle for soul-searching.

7. Rosh Hashana customs feature dipping apple (the forbidden fruit) in HONEY and eating POMEGRANATE, while wishing each other:

“May the coming year be renewed with goodness and sweetness, may our rewards be as numerous as the pomegranate seeds (613 commandments), may the past year with its curses be over, and may the coming year with its blessings dawn upon us.”

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