Rosh Hashanah is rich in symbolism and tradition. One of the ways that people retain information is when we appeal to all their senses. The Jewish people have perfected this, and it is easy to see this when they celebrate. We will see the rich heritage of this culture and how they captivate their children with the biblical truths that will help them in life. Children want to learn more, and we can do this by appealing to all of their senses.
Rosh Hashanah is just another beautiful holiday that proves this is true.
Thank you to Aish.com for this great infographic.
Let’s look at the infographic together. The first thing you might notice is the picture of the apple with honey. The reason this is important is because this is a traditional food that the Jewish people enjoy during Rosh Hashanah. It symbolizes that life is sweet and represents the hope of a sweet New Year.
The shofar is a trumpet made from a Ram’s horn used in ancient times by Jews in religious ceremonies and as a signal for battle. Today the shofar is sounded at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a mitzvah (a praiseworthy deed) to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
There are three specific sounds blown with a shofar for Rosh Hashanah. The first blast is called Tekiah– a long, straight blast signifying the coronation of God as King. The second sound of the shofar is called Shevarim – three wailing sounds symbolic of a sobbing heart yearning to connect. The next blast is actually a series of nine quick blasts and is considered a spiritual alarm. It is interesting to know that if Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat that the shofar is not blown. The custom is to blow 100 blasts.
Preparing for the New Year
It is very important to begin the year with a fresh start. Before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people ask forgiveness from anyone they think they may have wronged during the year. I love this. I myself want to be very aware of how I treat others. In my opinion, any time of the year is a good time to make sure all is well, and if we need to ask forgiveness, ask right away and without hesitation. There is also the“Hatarat Nedarim” or the annulling of vows. This is important because you might have made a vow knowingly or unknowingly, a simple statement like, “I refuse to eat chocolate.”is considered a vow, and if you break that vow it is important to annul any vow made intentionally or not. This is taken very seriously. A fresh start is so important, and making sure the slate is clean is imperative.
Focusing on and holding yourself accountable is enriching and keeps you headed in the right direction for growth and improvement.
- We are to look at our accomplishments. Did we learn more and do more? What did we achieve last year?
- Time management: Are we respecting our own time, and did we use our time wisely?
- Are we making a difference in our world for the better? Do we contribute in helpful ways?
- What do we want the year ahead to look like for us? What are our goals? What do we want to do in the New Year?
Challah bread is used on Shabbat. During Rosh Hashanah, instead of a traditional loaf of Challah, the baker takes great care to create a round crown shape loaf. The loaf is braided, using three elongated rolls. some Christians believe that this represents God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It may also represent the three biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The use of the round loaf symbolizes fullness or completion. Because it is in the shape of a crown, it is easy for us to also remember our Lord and King of Kings when we look upon the Challah bread. It is a custom to dip the bread into the honey and ask God to renew us for a good and sweet New Year.
Apples dipped in honey also symbolizes the prayer for a sweet New Year. Asking for a good and sweet New Year is intentional because the hope is that with this prayer the year should be revealed as a good New Year and to be a sweet one as well.
Pomegranate is also enjoyed and symbolizes the desire that our merits would increase as the seeds of the pomegranate. It has been said that there are 613 seeds, which resembles the 613 commandments in the Bible. There is also a “crown” on the pomegranate itself. King Solomon built the Jerusalem temple using pomegranates on the capitals of the two pillars which stood in front of the temple (1Kings 7:13-22). Pomegranate designs were used to adorn the robe worn by the Hebrew High Priest in ancient times. (Exodus 28:33-34). It is a symbol of righteousness, and represents fullness, knowledge, wisdom, and learning. It is also one of the seven foods listed in the Bible that is produced in Israel. Ancient coins of Judea have the symbol of a pomegranates on them, since this was considered a holy symbol. Many used the symbol of the pomegranate to make jewelry.
Rosh Hashanah Service
During the synagogue service a special prayer book is used, and it is called the Machzor. There are so many unique prayers on Rosh Hashanah that the Machzor is very important. The curtain on the ark is changed to a white cloth which symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. When you greet one another it is customary to say, “Shana Tova”or “ A Good Year” -just like we say Happy New Year in January.
There are three special blessings said.
- Malchiot (Kingship) is the recognition of God as King and the source of all, praises to God.
- Zichronot this blessing is of remembrance concentrating on the fact that God is aware of all that we say and do, and asking Him to remember the good deeds of our ancestors.
- Shofrot is the significance of the Shofar and reaffirming that God is King, and that we are connected to Him from the deepest part of our soul.
- There is one more prayer called Tashlich. It is the casting away of our sins. This prayer is said in the afternoon by a pool of water filled with fish. The body of water and the fish are symbolic. Torah is represented as water.In Talmudic literature, Jesus also says “Come to Me, and you shall thirst no more.” He also said He would make us fishers of men. So as fish can’t live without water, so too- we can’t live without the Word of God.
(Did you know that the eyes of a fish never close? What a wonderful symbol to remind us that God’s eyes never close; He knows of our every move. He sees us. He SEES us!)
What a blessing to hear the shofar used on Rosh Hashanah. There are a series of nine blasts to make sure the hearers are fulfilling their requirement to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Remember the different kinds of blasts we learned about? On Rosh Hashanah all three sounds are used to make sure that Mitzvah (praise worthy deeds) is being fulfilled. There is the Shevarim sound a groaning type of cry , and also a sobbing, weeping sound- or the Teruah sound. The Shevarim-Teruah are blown together, and all three sounds are used. Each precedes and is followed by an unbroken blast, which is called the Tekiah. When the shofar is sounded the hearers accept it as a spiritual alarm clock, waking us from our sleep.
- The shofar is blown during the day. Everyone stands, and this is a symbol of the intention that their obligation to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is being fulfilled.
- Two blessings are recited: “To hear the sound of the shofar” and “She’hechianu.” Once the blessings are made, everyone is silent and does not speak until the end of the shofar blowing.
- 30 blasts are blown in the various combinations.
- 40 extra blasts are blown at the end of services as a custom, totaling 100 blasts.
- It is also a custom to make the final blast linger, whichis called “Tekiah Gedolah.”
Psalms 33 and 130 are read by many on this holiday. I encourage you to read the scriptures and meditate on them, use this time for reflection, and think about all God’s blessings.