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 Holiday Central > Rosh Hashanah > Meaning

Rosh Hashanah and Its Meaning
By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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A Story for Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah for Jews without a Prayer

Rosh means head. Hashanah mean year. Put them together and you get “head of the year,” or in other words, the Jewish new year. Forget popping Champagne and silly party hats. Jews view the new year as a serious time of reflection on the year gone by and prayer for a sweet year to come. Jews around the world welcome the new year in many ways. They attend synagogue, eat special meals, wear new clothing, and listen to the shofar horn being blown.

Prayer
Sure. You pray all the time. At the bottom of the ninth. Before your eight-year-old boards the school bus. After ingesting a suspiciously murky exotic drink in Cancun. But the idea of spending a day or two in the synagogue wearing stiff new shoes, a circulation-hindering tight suit, and requisite religious headgear makes you queasy. You and every other Jew. Yet you go. You buy the High Holiday ticket, tell your boss you’re taking a personal day or a holiday or a sniff-sniff sick day, and you go and sit and wonder why.

If you’re not quite sure you believe then why do you go? Jewish mystics say that on Rosh Hashanah the curtain masking God’s presence in this world is drawn back – just a little – and causes a spiritual response in even the least Jewishly inclined Jews. Click here for a fresh view of Rosh Hashanah Prayer.

The Magic of Jewish Community
Okay, if you don’t buy that. Or can’t quite accept it. Why do you go? Or why do you feel you would like to attend services on Rosh Hashanah? For some the appeal resides in being together with a whole room of Jews. Jews are a minority among minorities. Despite the Jewish high profile population surveys reveal Jews to be less than a fraction of a fraction among the world’s religions. Often times no one at work, except that guy in marketing, or no one at school, except that girl in biology, is Jewish. To spend a few hours among Jews feels good, feels clubby and warm.

Festive meals extend the Jewish unity bit and Rosh Hashanah’s meaning to the table. There are a host of traditional but low commitment ways to wish the ones you love a good year. Would you believe these observances involve black-eyed peas and cabbage? Read on for more about traditional food adventures.

New Year’s Resolutions
Remember the grandiose plans made as January 1 approached? Have you gone to the gym/quit smoking/spent more time with the kids/gone to the museums/kept your room clean like you said you would? Rosh Hashanah is another one of those fresh slate moments in time, but the emphasis is different than the secular new year. Traditional liturgy emphasizes a reevaluation of the human relationship with God. Much is made about reaffirming God as Sovereign, who destines length of days and sits in judgment of our deeds. Unlike Yom Kippur, where atoning for misdeeds is the emphasis of the day, Rosh Hashanah helps us imagine what we might become as better Jews, as better people, whose lives would be guided by a higher purpose.

Mazor Guide to Rosh Hashanah brings you much more about the holiday, its meaning and its traditions... See the links below.


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