Jewish Holidays

When you think of New Years, what do you think about? Most people picture soft snow drizzling lazily to the ground and lining the streets. They think of eggnog and Christmas trees still standing proudly in their living rooms. When people think of New Year’s Eve, their minds instantly go to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and counting down the seconds.

For Jewish people, this is not entirely the case. Although we do celebrate the traditional New Year that marks the shift of the calendar, we also celebrate something else. Sometimes, when Jewish people think of the New Year, we think of crisp leaves and the return to school and summer weather turning chillier by the day. Instead of the month becoming January, the Jewish month becomes Tishrei- or תִּשׁרִי. Instead of the year turning to  2014 as it will this December, the Jewish year is going to become 5773.

You may be noticing that all of yours tests are getting postponed to Monday or Tuesday of next week. This is because the Jewish New Year is upon us, services taking place Thursday and Friday, September 6th and 7th. So to what do you owe this pleasure or light homework and zero tests? That would be Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh (pronounced Rush or Rash) Hashanah is one of the New Years that the Jewish people have. There’s actually a couple, but Rosh Hashanah is the most prevalent because it applies to people and animals, among other things.  It is also important because it is right before Yom Kippur, but more on that later. Rosh Hashanah starts on Wednesday the 5th at sundown and ends on Saturday the 8th at sunset. All Jewish holidays start and end at that time, including the weekly observation of faith, the Sabbath. If you’ve ever heard anything about Rosh Hashanah, it’s probably the tradition of dipping apples in honey. This delicious tradition is meant to signify a sweet new year and is one of the things that Jewish people truly look forward to when it comes to the holidays. Another fantastic tradition regarding the holiday is the blowing of the shofar, or שׁוֹפָר. This “musical instrument” is made of the horn of a ram, and is blown at both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to bring in the New Year. It is a truly harrowing sound and a very difficult to play because it requires intense breathing capabilities.

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Rosh Hashanah is the lead in to Yom Kippur, which is the more serious of the two holidays.

— Zach Dresser

Although Rosh Hashanah is full of joy, one must be certain to be morose at best during a Yom Kippur service. If you ever have to go to one, be respectful to the people observing this holiday by only wearing dark, muted colors (preferably black) and not bringing any type of leather into the synagogue.

In the minds of Jewish people, Yom Kippur is the chance to reform[/pullquote]. Each year, we all make huge mistakes as people and as Jews. Yom Kippur is our opportunity to seek forgiveness. There are two confessions, a short and a long one, during which we name our sins and hit ourselves on the chest to show that we are taking our sins to heart. This is arguably the most important part of the service. We are also allowed to reflect on our own personal sins, not just the ones against G-d. The holiday gives us all a clean slate and makes everybody think about his or her mortality and the idea of final judgment.

Due to all of the sinning that has been going on, Jewish people must take this holiday very seriously. We are not allowed to eat from sundown one day to sundown the next day. There are many other things that we are not supposed to be partaking in- basically anything that is considered to be a pleasure. Among eating, we are also not supposed to do any work, cook, or drive, which are all things that traditional people do not do on the Sabbath either. Most people merely observe the eating part, but many will also spend the day not reading, watching television, or even listening to music. We are supposed to take the time to consider our sins and think about how we can better ourselves for the next year. It’s not as difficult to do these things as one would think, as we are in temple from 9:30 to 1:30, and then we have to go back around 5:30.

Yom Kippur is on a Saturday this year, so it won’t be making any difference with tests or quizzes, but it usually does affect the school year. These two holidays, called the High Holidays, are the most important holidays for Jewish people. Remember, never wish somebody a “happy Yom Kippur” as it is an extremely religious and serious holiday. If you do, don’t be surprised if that person laughs a little bit. If you speak to somebody Jewish about these holidays, there are a few things you can say. You can say “happy new year” or the Hebrew translation, which is “l’shanah tovah,” also written as שנה טובה.

Happy holidays to you all!