26th of Tamuz, 5774
Parashat Masei


Rosh Hashanah Traditions

Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, are two very important holidays in the Jewish calendar.

On Rosh Hashanah, Jews all over the world gather in synagogues to celebrate the day HaShem created Adam and Khavah (Eve), the first humans.

Rosh Hashanah Traditions

We celebrate Rosh Hashanah with sweet foods, like apples dipped in honey and honey cake, as a wish for a sweet year. Some families also celebrate with symbolic foods like the head of a fish, pomegranates, and carrots.

The head of a fish is so that we can be “like the head and not like the tail.” This is a symbol of having a year in which we are on top and not the bottom. Pomegranates are symbolic of plenty. Have you ever tried to count how many seeds there are in a pomegranate? Far too many to count. We want plenty of health and happiness for the New Year, just as many good things as there are seed in a pomegranate.

We also eat carrots, and it isn’t just to see better in the dark. For Ashkenazi Jews, carrots symbolize the Yiddish word “merren” which also means more. We want more of all the good things in life. More health, more happiness, more success. For Sephardic Jews, carrots are symbolic of the phrase “Yikaretu oyveychem” which means may your enemies be cut down. We ask that those who wish bad for us not get their wish, that they don’t succeed.

And of course, we have round Challot made with honey and raisins. These are another symbol of a sweet and happy year. We put decorations on the Challot, such as birds (symbolizing doves of peace).

Rosh Hashanah starts on the first day of Tishrei and lasts two days. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Yamim Noraim, the ten days of atonement.

On Rosh Hashanah, all mankind is judged. HaShem writes the judgement for each of us in the Book of Life. This judgement is based on our lives of the year before, and is the decision of what will happen to us in the coming year.

But the judgement is not final. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur give us a time to change the judgement for good. We are given the chance to improve our coming year through Teshuvah (asking forgiveness), Tefillah (prayer), and Tzedakah (charity).

On Rosh Hashanah we wish each other “L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevuh” may you be written in for a good year. But Rosh HaShanah is not the end of the judgement, it is only on Yom Kippur that our judgement is made final.