Although I have seemed like the be-all in Jewish knowledge to this point, I will forewarn you all that my explanation may be splotchy so I invite you to ask questions. The Hebrew calendar has now begun a new year, with Rosh Hashanah literally meaning “the first of the year.” It is one of the holiest days of the year and marks a new beginning, a clean slate for the New Year. For this reason, white is a sort of symbolic color for the holiday. The clergy (Rabbi and Cantor) wear white robes (they don’t usually wear robes at all) and the Torah scrolls are dressed in white (as apposed to the usual colored coverings). The white symbolizes purity and reminds us of G-d’s promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow.
Rosh Hashanah begins the 10 Days of Repentance, leaving up to Yom Kippur, the absolute holiest day of the Jewish year. During this time it is traditional for Jews around the world to ask those around them for forgiveness for anything that they have done during the year that has caused hate or sadness to other people. I was always taught that you can’t just go and ask G-d for forgiveness because you committed the “sin” against other people. You are supposed to ask the person for forgiveness and if they say no ask again, only after they do not forgive you and you have given wholehearted effort can you then ask G-d for forgiveness instead. It is really not uncommon this time of year for me to get an email from friends stating something similar to what I offer you now: If I have done anything to hurt, upset or harm you in the past year, I ask you forgiveness and tell you that I strive to be a better person in the coming year. Since you are supposed to ask for forgiveness in the days leading to Yom Kippur, which literally means “The Day of Atonement” on that day your “fate” for the coming year is sealed in the book of life and happiness for the coming year (which is where the greeting that I opened this post with comes from). Even people who usually don’t attend services go on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is pretty much the strictest amount strict days and it is one day that I take very seriously. Part of this day (which this year falls October 13th) is a 25 hour fast from all food and drink for all those in physical health to fast and those over the age of 13. Also, you are supposed to reframe from all work (like “Shomar Shabbat” like I described in the previous post). I do follow this practice on Yom Kippur even though I don’t during the rest of the year. On Yom Kippur I won’t ride in a car or use electricity. Even “weirder” is that on Yom Kippur you aren’t supposed to bath (relax guys its only 24 hours), anoint oneself (like by wear fragrances and perfume) or wear any leather. These are all things I fallow because to me this is the most important day on the Jewish calendar. When I am at home we pretty much stay in temple most of the day but since I will be at school this year I am not positive what I am going to be doing.
Even though this post is amazingly long already (as usual) I am just going to leave you with a couple more traditional things I have been doing since it’s Rosh Hashanah. First off there is the blowing of the Shofar, the ram’s horn (which is the animal sent for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac), which is pictured below.
(ps this isn't a picture of my dad or anything, I just found it online haha). Although the bible doesn’t exactly say why we blow the Shofar is blown on both days of Rosh Hashanah for 100 “notes” and to end Yom Kippur and it is traditional said it was used to gather people together in the olden days so they’d know it was time to gather and repent. Next there is the tradition of Tashlikh (“casting off”), which I have myself done only twice. It involves a symbolic casting of our sins into a moving body of water (like that little river just past Ray Street down North College; I did it there two years ago), usually done with bread crumbs. Lastly is the tradition of apples and honey. This is to symbolize the sweetness of the holiday and the sweetness to come with the new years.
Alright, that’s all I have for now and I appreciate you reading all the way through. L’Shanah Tovah everyone!!