Rosh Hashana Eve ראש השנה – Yom Kipper‎

Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה‎, literally “head of the year”), is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) which usually occur in the early septentrional autumn.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. It is described in the Torah as יום תרועה (Yom Teru’ah, a day of sounding [the Shofar]).

Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey.

The Mishnah contains the first known reference to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of judgment”. In the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah, it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed “to live.”

The intermediate class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect, repent and become righteous; the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living forever.”

In Jewish liturgy, Rosh Hashanah leads to Yom Kippur, which is described as “the day of judgment” (Yom ha-Din) and “the day of remembrance” (Yom ha-Zikkaron).

Some midrashic descriptions depict God as sitting upon a throne, while books containing the deeds of all humanity are opened for review, and each person passes in front of Him for evaluation of his or her deeds.

The Talmud provides three central ideas behind the day:
“The Holy One said, ‘on Rosh Hashanah recite before Me [verses of] Sovereignty, Remembrance, and Shofar blasts (malchuyot, zichronot, shofrot): Sovereignty so that you should make Me your King; Remembrance so that your remembrance should rise up before Me. And through what? Through the Shofar.’ (Rosh Hashanah 16a, 34b)”

This is reflected in the prayers composed by the classical rabbinic sages for Rosh Hashanah found in all machzorim where the theme of the prayers is the strongest theme is the “coronation” of God as King of the universe in preparation for the acceptance of judgments that will follow on that day, symbolized as “written” into a Divine book of judgments, that then hang in the balance for ten days waiting for all to repent, then they will be “sealed” on Yom Kippur.

The assumption is that everyone was sealed for life and therefore the next festival is Sukkot (Tabernacles) that is referred to as “the time of our joy” (z’man simchateinu).

Rosh Hashanah eve

The evening before Rosh Hashanah day is known as Erev Rosh Hashanah (“Rosh Hashanah eve”). As with Rosh Hashanah day, it falls on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, since days of the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown. Some communities perform Hatar’at nedarim (a nullification of vows) after the morning prayer services during the morning on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Elul, which ends at sundown, when Erev Rosh Hashanah commences. The mood becomes festive but serious in anticipation of the new year and the synagogue services. Many Orthodox men immerse in a mikveh in honor of the coming day.

Rosh Hashanah prayer service

On Rosh Hashanah day, religious poems, called piyyuttim, are added to the regular services. A special prayer book, the mahzor, is used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (plural mahzorim).

A number of additions are made to the regular service, most notably an extended repetition of the Amidah prayer for both Shacharit and Mussaf. The Shofar is blown during Mussaf at several intervals.

(In many synagogues, even little children come and hear the Shofar being blown.)

Biblical verses are recited at each point. According to the Mishnah, 10 verses (each) are said regarding kinship, remembrance, and the shofar itself, each accompanied by the blowing of the shofar. A variety of piyyutim, medieval penitential prayers, are recited regarding themes of repentance. The Alenu prayer is recited during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah.

Symbolic foods
Traditional Rosh Hashanah foods: Apples and honey, pomegranates, wine for kiddush

Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, to symbolize a sweet new year. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local minhag (“custom”), such as the head of a fish (to symbolize the “head” of the year).

The Sephardi and Mizrahi communities hold a “Rosh Hashanah seder during which blessings are recited over a variety of symbolic dishes. The blessings start with the phrase “Yehi ratzon,” meaning “May it be thy will.” In many cases, the name of the food in Hebrew or Aramaic represents a play on words or pun.

The Yehi Ratson platter may include apples (dipped in honey, baked or cooked as a compote called mansanada); dates; pomegranates; black-eyed peas; pumpkin-filled pastries called rodanchas; leek fritters called keftedes de prasa; beets; and a whole fish with the head intact. It is also common to eat stuffed vegetables called legumbres yaprakes. RECIPES

Some of the symbolic foods eaten are dates, black-eyed peas, leek, spinach and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud. Pomegranates are used in many traditions, to symbolize being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds.

The use of apples and honey, symbolizing a sweet year, is a late medieval Ashkenazi addition, though it is now almost universally accepted. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year.

Gefilte fish and Lekach are commonly served by Ashkenazic Jews on this holiday. On the second night, new fruits are served to warrant inclusion of the shehecheyanu blessing.

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎‎, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jews.

Its central themes are atonement and repentance.

Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”).

Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers oneself absolved by God.

The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services.

Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma’ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Mussaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne’ilah, the closing prayer). The prayer services also include private and public confessions of sins (Vidui) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

As one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays. Many secular Jews attend synagogue on Yom Kippur—for many secular Jews the High Holy Days are the only recurring times of the year in which they attend synagogue — causing synagogue attendance to soar.
 

Erev Yom Kippur (lit. “eve [of] day [of] atonement”) is the day preceding Yom Kippur, corresponding to the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. This day is commemorated with two festive meals, the giving of charity, and asking others for forgiveness.

Five additional prohibitions are traditionally observed, as detailed in the Jewish oral tradition (Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:1).

 Soul, in the Torah is known by five separate names:

soul, wind, spirit, living one and unique one.

In the Yom Kippur section of the Torah, the word soul appears five times. Unlike regular days, which have three prayer services, Yom Kippur has five- Maariv, Shacharis, Mussaf, Minchah and Neilah. The Kohen Gadol, rinsed himself in the mikveh five times on Yom Kippur.

The traditions are as follows:

  • No eating and drinking
  • No wearing of leather shoes
  • No bathing or washing
  • No anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions
  • No marital relations

 
A parallel has been drawn between these activities and the human condition according to the Biblical account of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Refraining from these symbolically represents a return to a pristine state, which is the theme of the day.

By refraining from these activities, the body is uncomfortable but can still survive.
 
The soul is considered to be the life force in a body.

Therefore, by making one’s body uncomfortable, one’s soul is uncomfortable. By feeling pain one can feel how others feel when they are in pain. This is the purpose of the prohibitions.

Total abstention from food and drink usually begins 20 minutes before sundown (called tosefet Yom Kippur, lit. “Addition to Yom Kippur”), and ends after nightfall the following day. Although the fast is required of all healthy adults, it is waived in the case of certain medical conditions.

Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, after the Mincha (afternoon) prayer.

Wearing white clothing, for men a Kittel, is traditional to symbolize one’s purity on this day. Many Orthodox men immerse themselves in a mikveh on the day before Yom Kippur.
 
In order to apologize to God, one must:

  • Pray
  • Repent
  • Give to charity

The Book of Life (Hebrew: ספר החיים, transliterated Sefer HaChaim) is the book in which God records the names of every person who is destined for Heaven.

According to the Talmud it is open on Rosh Hashanah; its analog for the wicked, the Book of the Dead, is open on this date as well.

For this reason extra mention is made for the Book of Life during Amidah recitations during the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement (the two High Holidays, particularly in the prayer Unetaneh Tokef).

 

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