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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador—From Generation to Generation since 1883
לדור ודור

Holidays Coming up

Rosh Hashanah 5784
In 2023, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 15 and ends at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 17.

In 2023, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 15 and ends at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 17. Rosh Hashanah, literally the “head of the year” is the Jewish New Year. It is a time of inner renewal and divine atonement.

What foods do we eat on Rosh Hashanah?

It is customary to have big feasts on both nights of Rosh Hashanah and there are thus a plethora of customary dishes, including: honey cakebriskettzimmes and more Rosh Hashanah recipes.

As with most Jewish holidays, food is the focus of home celebrations of Rosh Hashanah. Families and friends gather for extended meals, which include traditional foods such as apples and  dipped in honey. Honey, a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year, also appears in other holiday foods, such as tayglach — a honey and nut pastry — and honey cake. Challah, normally braided, is baked round as a reminder of the never-ending cycle of life.

Like other festival and Shabbat meals, the Rosh Hashanah meal begins with Kiddush, the sanctification of the day over the wine. Both at dinner and at lunch, the Rosh Hashanah  includes a reference to the shofar, the most prominent symbol of the holiday.

In some families, it is traditional to serve the head of a fish or lamb (though meat substitutes would also do the trick for vegetarians) in the hope that everyone at the table will be at the “head” and not at the “tail” of whatever they do in the new year. You might add personal meaning to these rituals by asking everyone at the table to offer a wish for the new year as they dip the apple or challah in honey.
Why Jews Eat Pomegranates and Other “New Fruits” on Rosh Hashanah


On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, it is common to eat a new fruit– a fruit that participants have not tasted for a long time. This tradition has become a way to literally taste the newness of the year, by enjoying an unfamiliar food. Often, a pomegranate is used as the new fruit, as the pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot (commandments). The pomegranate has also long been a symbol of fertility, and thus of the unlimited possibilities for the new year.

The tradition of eating a new fruit need not, however, be restricted to pomegranates. Instead, this ritual can be an excuse for scouting out the “exotic fruit” section of the produce department, or exploring fruit markets to find fruits that family members have not before tasted. (Interestingly, the custom developed as a technical solution to a legal difficulty surrounding the recitation of the Shechehiyanu blessing on the second day of the holiday. The blessing, usually recited to commemorate a new situation, is said on the second day of Rosh Hashanah both in honor of the day and the new fruit.)

Dates, Beets and Other Hebrew Pun Food

A number of other food-based rituals can also enliven the home celebration of Rosh Hashanah.  communities (which trace their ancestry to Mediterranean lands) have developed a Rosh Hashanah seder, which revolves around the eating of symbolic foods and the recitation of prayers that transform these foods into wishes for the coming year.

Many of these prayers are based on Hebrew puns involving the food in question. For instance, the prayer before eating a date (tamar in Hebrew) includes the phrase “yitamu hataim”— may the wicked cease. Before eating pumpkin or squash (k’ra’a in Hebrew), Sephardic Jews say “yikaru l’fanekha z’khuyoteinu“– may our good deeds call out our merit before you. Alternatively, they might use the resemblance between the word k’ra’a (pumpkin) and the word kara (to cut or rip) to express the hope that any bad deeds will be ripped out of God’s book.

Other symbolic foods include leeks and onions, which are associated with the Exodus from Egypt; beets, whose Aramaic name silka, similar to the Hebrew salak (go away) is used to express the hope that our enemies disappear; and peas or beans, mentioned in the  as ruviah, a word that sounds like the Hebrew “to increase,” and therefore indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year.

What are some Rosh Hashanah practices?

One of the common practices of Rosh Hashanah is attending the High Holy Day services, where the shofar can be heard.

Many people go to a Tashlich service where they throw bread crumbs into a naturally running body of water as a means of casting away their sins. On the second night of Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat a new fruit, a symbol of newness.

When does Rosh Hashanah start?

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which typically falls out in early to mid-September. Since the Jewish day begins at night, the holiday commences on the evening before the Gregorian date that corresponds to Tishrei 

What is Rosh Hashanah about exactly?

 (the Jewish New Year) is simultaneously a time of great celebration and subtle trepidation. It is a day to celebrate our creation, but also a day of accounting and judgment for our actions. On Rosh Hashanah, we relate to God as the ultimate judge. The symbolic Book of Life is opened and we become advocates for our personal inscription in it. We review the choices we have made over the past year, our actions and our intentions, as we attempt to honestly evaluate ourselves. You may want to consult this list of questions to help in your introspection.

What is a shofar?

shofar is a ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet during the Jewish month of Elul that leads up to Rosh Hashanah, at Rosh Hashanah services and at the end of  . The four sounds of the shofar – tekiah, shevarim, teruah and tekiah gedolah – remind many people of a crying voice. Hearing the shofar’s call is a reminder for us to look inward and repent for the sins of the past year.

What traditional foods are served? Are any foods forbidden? And what’s the reason for those round challah loaves?

Traditionally Jews eat sweet foods — like apples and honey,  and tzimmes — to symbolize a sweet new year. (Here are some Rosh Hashanah recipes you may want to try.) Chicken and brisket are frequently served at Rosh Hashanah meals. In Sephardic tradition, a number of foods believed to signify our wishes for the coming year are eaten, such as pomegranates, leeks and pumpkins. All foods that can be eaten year-round are permitted. And the challah? It’s round as a reminder of the never-ending cycle of life.

What do shana tova and gmar hatima tovamean?

Shana tova  means “Have a good year.” A similar expression is L’shana tova umetukah, which means “for a good and sweet year.”  Gmar hatima tova literally means “a good signing/sealing.” This is a traditional greeting during the days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, referring to the belief that on Rosh Hashanah our fates are written, or inscribed, in the Book of Life, and on Yom Kippur we are sealed in it.

How long does Rosh Hashanah last?

Traditionally Jews observe two days of Rosh Hashanah. In 2022, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 25 and ends at sundown on Tuesday, Sept. 27. However, many Reform congregations observe only the first day. But the holidays don’t end there: Yom Kippur falls 10 days later, followed by Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Do I have to belong to a synagogue to go to Rosh Hashanah services?

No, although in most synagogues you will need  to purchase High Holiday tickets in advance. If the cost is prohibitive, you can usually negotiate a lower rate. In addition, a number of congregations and other Jewish institutions offer free services, but you may need to do a little research to find them. Some suggestions to get you started are listed here.

Is it true that you are supposed to throw bread in the water on Rosh Hashanah?

Yes, during the Tashlich ceremony, usually held on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews symbolically cast off their sins by throwing pieces of bread into a body of water.

What prayers do we read on Rosh Hashanah?

While some of the liturgy is similar to other weekday or Shabbat services, much of it is unique, and several of these prayers are repeated later on Yom Kippur. Arguably the most famous part of Rosh Hashanah services is the blowing of the shofar, and the most famous prayer is Unetanah Tokef, which inspired Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire.” A close second is “Avinu Malkeinu,” which means “our father, our king.”

What sections of the Torah are read during Rosh Hashanah services?

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, most synagogues read Genesis 21:1-21:34, the section where Sarah and Abraham, after years of struggling with infertility, are blessed with a son, Isaac, after which Sarah banishes Hagar, the handmaid who is the mother of Ishmael. The second-day reading, Genesis 22:1-24, continues where the first day left off, with the story of the Akedah, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac.  (In Reform congregations that observe only one day of Rosh Hashanah, only Genesis 22 is read.)

What is the prayer book for the High Holidays called, and are there any other special Hebrew terms I need to know during the holidays?

The prayer book for the holidays is called the Mahzor, and yes, there are numerous words and terms associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

* Excerpted from My Jewish Learning

      Calendar of Jewish HOLIDAYS   2023 - 2024

ROSH HASHANAH - sunset Friday September 15 - sundown Sunday September 17, 2023
YOM KIPPUR - sunset Sunday September 24 - sundown Monday September 25, 2023
SUKKOT - sunset Friday September,29 - sundown Friday October 6, 2023
SHEMINI ATZERET - sunset Friday October 6 - sundown Saturday October 7, 2023
SIMCHAT TORAH - sunset Saturday October 7 - sundown Sunday October 8, 2023
CHANUKAH - sunset Thursday, December 7 - sundown Friday December 15, 2023
TU B'SHVAT - sunset Wednesday, January 24 - sundown Thursday January 25, 2024
PURIM - sunset Saturday, March 23 - sundown Sunday, March 24, 2024
PASSOVER - sunset Monday April 22 - sundown Tuesday April 30, 2024
YOM HASHOAH - Sunday, May 5 - sunset Monday, May 6, 2024
YOM HA'ATZMAUT - sunset  Monday, May 13 - sunset Tuesday, May 14, 2024
LAG B'OMER - sunset Saturday, May 25 - sundown Sunday, May 26, 2024
YOM YERUSHALAYIM - sunset Tuesday June 4 - sundown Wednesday, June 5, 2024
SHAVUOT - sunset Tuesday, June 11 - Thursday,  June 13, 2024
TISH B'AV - sunset Monday August 12 - sundown Tuesday August 13, 2024
ROSH HASHANAH - sunset Wednesday October 2 - sundown Friday, October 4, 2024
YOM KIPPUR - sunset Friday October 11 - sundown Saturday October 12, 2024
SUKKOT - sunset Wednesday,  October 16 - sundown Wednesday October 23, 2024
SHEMINI ARZERET - sunset Wednesday, October 23 - sundown Thursday, October 24, 2024
SIMCHAT TORAH - sunset Thursday October 24 - sundown Friday October 25, 2024
CHANUKAH - sunset Wednesday December 25 - sundown Thursday, January 2, 2025 

Mon, September 25 2023 10 Tishrei 5784