The Autumn Festival of Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish equivalent of what is known as New Year’s Day.
It is always in September or October, the date being variable because it is set according to lunar months. Jews very often send each other greetings cards during Rosh Hashanah to celebrate.
Rosh Hashanah is a time when Jewish people ask God to forgive anything that they have done wrong. It is a time to make friends with someone whose friendship may have been lost due to some silly argument. It is a time to put things right that may be wrong. It is no good just being sorry for something that is wrong, it has to be put right at this time.
Rosh Hashanah is a two-day festival. It is a time when all Jews attend a synagogue which means that they often overflow at this time. Often they will attend several services in the two days; all of the services have lots of special prayers in to ask God’s forgiveness.
On the day that is not the Shabbat (The Jewish Sabbath), the shofar ( a musical instrument made of horn – see image below) is blown. Musical instruments cannot be played on the Shabbat; therefore, it has to be done on the other of the two days. Blowing the shofar is to remind Jewish people that when Abraham trusted God, God provided the ram for him to sacrifice and so save his son. It is a reminder to obey, trust and love God.
The shofar has a very haunting piercing sound which is played in a special sequence many times over. It is the call to repent, or ask God to forgive.
Rosh Hashanah in the Home
Not all of the celebrations are in the synagogue, many of them are in the home. On the first evening of Rosh Hashanah after the blessing everybody has a piece of apple dipped in honey.
Yom Kippur is at the end of the festival of Rosh Hashanah, it is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is the Day of Atonement…it means to be at one with God. This is the only time that all men wear their prayer shawls at an evening service; otherwise it is always morning services when they are worn. There are several services which Jews attend. Yom Kippur involves a twenty-four hour fast, a time when nothing passes between the lips, not even a drink of water. It is a ritual to make Jews as pure and holy as possible, forsaking all comforts to make themselves as holy as possible for God.
Useful Web Links
- Rosh Hashanah for Kids! – This site has lots of information and activities.
- BBC Rosh Hashanah – Made for 2014, but still useful information.
- Yom Kippur for kids – From JewishKids.org