Saturday, September 15, 2012


Sounding the Shofar at Rosh HaShanah

Hello My Friend and Welcome.

Judaism, like Christianity, has its calendar of Feasts and Festivals. And again, like Christianity, the liturgical year that governs them does not follow the secular calendar.

The term Rosh HaShanah, meaning the head of the year, is not found in the Bible. The Torah refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the Shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25. In Ezekiel 40:1 there is a general reference to the time of Yom Kippur as the "beginning of the year", but it does not specifically refer to the holiday of Rosh HaShanah.

The Jewish ecclesiastical calendar for the year 5773 begins the first day of the month of Tishri. This corresponds to our Gregorian date of September 17th, 2011. However, since each new day by Jewish reckoning begins at sundown, it actually starts at sundown, September 15th. Tradition says that Tishri 1 represents either the creation of the world or the creation of man. In the second case, the creation of the world occurred five days earlier on the 25th of Elul. Either way, the time from Adam to the present time is calculated to be 5,773 years.

For the Jew, no work is permitted on Rosh HaShanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer book called the machzor used for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holydays.

One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the Shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of Shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, big tekiah), the final blast in a set, which lasts 10 seconds minimum. The Shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat.

The common greeting at this time is L'shanah tovah (for a good year). This is a shortening of L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem (or to women, L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." A term that references the coming of Yom Kippur.

The celebration of Rosh HaShanah, which lasts either one or two days, has similarities and differences to our celebration of New Year’s Day. Although the Jews gather and celebrate, their celebration is not the all-out party we sometimes see in America. There are no midnight bashes, no Rose Parade floats, no memorial bowl games, and no ball drops in Times Square. Though in one way we are very alike; the Jews, like many Americans, make it a time of introspection, looking back on the mistakes of the past year and planning changes for the year to come.

Rosh HaShanah ushers in what are known as the High Holy Days. This ten-day period begins on Rosh HaShanah and concludes on Yom Kippor, the Day of Atonement. The belief is that this is a time of judgment for each Jewish person. The righteous have their names recorded in the Book of Life. The wicked have their names expunged, and the middle-of-the-roaders have this time in which to repent and join the righteous.

Those familiar with the Hebrew Bible may notice an apparent contradiction between Rosh HaShanah, which occurs on the first day of the seventh month and the first month of the Jewish calendar Nissan, which occurs in March and April.

Judaism has several different years. At first glance this may seem strange, but it’s no different than  the American calendar New Year starting in January, while the new school year starts in September, and many businesses have fiscal years that start at various times throughout the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar. Elul 1 in August is the new year for the tithing of animals. Shevat 15 in February is the new year for trees which determines when first fruits can be eaten, etc., and Tishri 1, Rosh HaShanah is when the year number is increased and Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin.
The Traditional meal Begins with Apples and Honey

All holidays, secular and religious, have certain foods associated with them. If you don’t believe this, try serving something other than turkey on Thanksgiving and see what happens. The Rosh HaShanah meal traditionally begins with apples served with honey to give the New Year a sweet start. This is a late medieval Ashkenazi addition that is now almost universally accepted.

The Ashkenazi are Jews whose history can be traced to the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region, and thus for Germany. They later migrated, forming communities in non German-speaking areas throughout Europe and the United States. Although they composed only 3 percent of the world's Jewish population in the 11th century, at their peak in 1931, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for 92 percent of the world's Jews.

The Usual Oblong Shape of a Braided Loaf of Challah Bread
Several other traditional foods eaten during this holiday are honey cake, braised brisket of beef, and Challah. The C is silent so this rich, braided, egg bread is pronounced Hallah. Raisins, or other bits of fruit, are typically added to the Rosh HaShanah bread. It can also be formed from multiple types of dough for added variety. Rather than appearing in its typical oblong braid, the holiday Challah comes to the table formed into a round braid representing the crown of God.

The very simplest way to make a round Challah loaf is to take a round baking pan, such as a cake pan, and put about a dozen equally sized balls of dough in it. When the dough rises, it takes on the semblance of a woven loaf. You can also actually weave, or braid, the dough in increasingly complex forms. The video below offers three options; the simple circular spiral, a four-strand braid, and a cut bird applied to the Challah crown. Click Here for Video

Until next time, we wish you Peace and Blessings

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