May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year, for a good life, and for peace.
The two-day Jewish New Year celebration started at sundown Wednesday night and continues through nightfall Friday night.
Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.
There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making “resolutions.” Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.
You may have heard of a shofar. The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue, and a total of 100 notes are sounded each day. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on the Sabbath.
Several traditions abound on this holiday. No work is permitted, and much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. You can also dip bread in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.
The common greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”
I have made resolutions over the years, and certainly am more reflective during these holy days on the Jewish calendar. I atone for my sins (of which there are many, or not enough) and plan for a better year. What would you plan for?