Those observing the holiday believe that the book of life, which determines an individual’s fate for the coming year, opens on Rosh Hashanah, and is sealed at the end of Yom Kippur. The Jewish new year is not just a time to renew our resolve, rather, it’s the time when our fate stands in the balance as G‑d reviews our past year and decides whether we are sealed in the book of life or death. As such, Jewish greetings for this time of year reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year up ahead. The catch-all greeting you can use for the entire season is “Shanah tovah” (שנה טובה), which means “Good year.” The word “u’metuka” (ומתוקה), and sweet, is sometimes appended to the end. No matter what we say, the main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart – because that is what G‑d values the most…..Some interesting facts include:
Traditions: Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, according to the lunisolar Hebrew calendar. It occupies the first two days of the month Tishrei. The name Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew. The first day of the holiday is the most important because it is a day to be spent in prayer and contemplation as well as a day to celebrate with family.
Prayers for forgiveness called selichot are said during synagogue services, and the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown to symbolically awaken the faithful. After services, some Jews also take part in a tashlich ceremony by gathering at a body of water like a pond or stream to cast away their sins by throwing bread crumbs in and repeating silent prayers.
Food also plays a significant role in Rosh Hashanah. Challah, a staple at the Sabbath supper, is served. Unlike the usual oblong bread loaf, the Rosh Hashanah challah is round, symbolizing the circle of life. Sweets are thought to symbolize wishes for a sweet new year, and for this reason, Jews will often dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah.
Traditions: Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and is considered the holiest and most solemn day of the Jewish calendar. According to Jewish tradition, it is the day when God judges people’s actions and seals their fate for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or Book of Death. Jews traditionally observe Yom Kippur by fasting for 25 hours and attending special synagogue services. Some Jewish faithful also choose to wear white, representing the purification that the holiday represents.
The holiday begins with a special synagogue service on the first night when congregants recite Kol Nidre (“all vows” in Hebrew), a special liturgical chant offered only on Yom Kippur. It is believed that by reciting these vows, Jews will be forgiven for pledges left unfulfilled during the past year.
Services often continue overnight into the second day of observance. Readings from the Torah are given, loved ones who died in the previous year are remembered, and at the very end of the religious observances, the shofar is blown once to signal the end of the holiday.
The management staff at Prime Rehabilitation Services wishes all who celebrate a very Happy and Sweet New Year and may we all be sealed in the Book of Life….Shanah tovah”