Rosh Hashanah is the most important Jewish festival after Yom Kippur. It is the Jewish civil New Year celebrated to seek repentance and indulge in self-introspection. It is a two days celebration starting from the first day of the Tishrei, which is the seventh month according to the Hebrew calendar.
This is one of the holiest periods for the Jews since they believe that on this day, God writes his judgment in the book of life and seals the fate of a person on the day of Yom Kippur, which falls ten days after the Rosh Hashanah. Hence, during this period of two days, the Jews take off time from their work and offer special prayers in synagogues, blow shofar, prepare customary sweet delicacies and wish each other a happy fate for the rest of the year. Hence it is a time of introspection and reflection of their deeds over the past year and seeks repentance in the hope that forgiveness is granted to them by God.
First Day of Rosh Hashanah
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, people visit the mikvah or ritual bath to cleanse their souls for the upcoming holidays.
On the morning of Rosh Hashanah, the Torah is read and the musaf (or morning prayers) are offered. There are several additions to the regular prayers. Religious poems, called piyyutim are added and prayers are read from a special holiday prayer book called mazhor. Also, the Amidah prayers are extended for both sacharit ad Mussaf. Although the shofar can be blown at any time before the sunset, it is blown during the Mussaf prayers at several intervals.
During the afternoon, the ritual of tashlikh is performed. In this ritual, prayers are recited near fast-flowing water as they toss breadcrumbs, or something similar into the moving water. The breadcrumbs symbolize one’s sins, which are then washed away.
During the evening, the traditional candle lighting is done and kiddush is performed over wine to bless it. The Challah bread, a special bread which is round in shape and symbolizes the unending circle of life and the crown of God’s kingship over man, is eaten.
Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
The second day is the same as the first day, except that the Torah is not read and haftarah is not performed.
While performing kiddush on the second day, it is mandatory to eat a new fruit of the season and we some new clothing to receive the blessings of She-hecheyanu. It is a special prayer which is said during kiddush, and one’s intention should be extended simultaneously to the new garment and fruit.
As per tradition, women and girls light candles and blessing is recited.