What is Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah, literally “Head of the Year,” marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It also marks the beginning of the ten Days of Awe leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Days of Awe are a period of introspection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur.
In the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah falls on the first two days of the month of Tishrei. The Bible does not refer to the holiday as Rosh Hashanah; rather, it describes the holiday as Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, or Yom Teruah, the Day of the Blowing of the Shofar or Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6). During synagogue services, the Jewish community sounds the shofar (ram’s horn) as a call to repentance.
Special foods are eaten during Rosh Hashanah – for example, we dip apples in honey to symbolize a good and sweet new year. Traditionally, we eat pomegranates as part of the holiday celebration, because we hope our good deeds in the coming year will be as numerous as the seeds of a pomegranate.
Tashlich, “you will cast,” is one of the most significant observances of Rosh Hashanah. During Tashlich, Jewish communities gather along bodies of running water to say prayers and toss bits of bread into the flowing water, symbolizing the casting of one’s sins into the depths of the sea, as the prophet Micah states, “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
Paul speaks of the resurrection of the dead at the sound of the blowing of the shofar (I Cor. 15:50-54; I Thes. 4:13-18). During this time, God will transform the bodies of believers who have died, giving us new, immortal bodies. The sounding of the shofar encourages us to remember that our present bodies are only temporary, but we look forward to our eternal bodies, in which we will live in an unbroken relationship with God.
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