In recognition and celebration of the diversity of human spirituality, the Monks Without Borders Newsletter will provide regular information on the special days of the world’s religions as they arrive throughout the year. The following information was provided by Common Tables in the form of an interfaith eLert. More information about this service and the work of Common Tables can be obtained at 

Rosh Hashanah – Jewish

Autumn is a special, spiritual time of the year for people of the Jewish faith. Elul (a month of introspection, repentance, and reconciliation) leads to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the most important of all Jewish Holidays. Together Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the Yamim Nora’im, the “Days of Awe”. In English they are often referred to as the “High Holy Days”.

Rosh Hashanah (ROSH hah-SHAH-nah) literally means “head of the year” and is commonly referred to as the “Jewish New Year”. It is seen as the symbolic anniversary of the creation of the world.

Rosh Hashanah is the “Day of Judgment” – the day on which judgment on each person is pronounced and signed by God in the Book of Life. (While judgment is pronounced on Rosh Hashanah, that judgment is not made absolute/”sealed” until Yom Kippur.)

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.  In 2009 (Jewish Year 5770) Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Friday September 18 and ends at nightfall on Sunday September 20. Please note that some Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish communities only observe the first day of Rosh Hashanah; others observe two days.

Rosh Hashanah is a day of rest and, with some variations, the activities prohibited on Shabbat are also prohibited on Rosh Hashanah.

It is a time of praying in synagogue and for hearing the shofar (a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet). Rosh Hashanah is a time of family gatherings, of special meals with challah and includes sweet tasting foods (such as a piece of apple dipped in honey to symbolize the desire for a sweet year).

On the afternoon of the first day observant Jews may follow the practice of tashlikh (which literally means “casting off”). In this ritual prayers are recited near naturally flowing water and one’s sins are symbolically cast into that water. For many the custom includes tossing bread or pebbles into the water to represent the “casting off” of sins.

Traditional Greeting: “Shana Tova” – which is Hebrew and is usually translated as “For a Good Year” – is the traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting.

The American Jewish Year Book (published in 2007 by the American Jewish Committee) reports that the Jewish population in the United States is currently between 6.0 and 6.4 million and the world’s Jewish population is estimated at 13.155 million. During Rosh Hashanah and this time of Jewish High Holy Days, we ask that each of you pause for a few moments and, in a manner appropriate in your faith tradition and/or belief system, join with us in sending thoughts of love and good will to our Jewish brothers and sisters.