Shana Tova! We are entering the Jewish New Years Day!! The festival of Rosh Hashana. This festival is celebrated on the 1st of Tishrei.
Rosh Hashanah is the start of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar (it is actually one of four "new year" observances that define different "years" for different purposes as explained we learn especially in the Mishnah of Rosh Hashana and the Talmud).
It is the New Year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Mishnah also sets this day aside as the New year for calculating calendar years and the Sabbatical (Shmita) and Jubilee (Yovel) years.
According to some Torah commentators, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the making of man, which occurred five days earlier, the 25th of Elul, was the first day of creation of the Universe.
Also in the Mishna, it features the first known reference to Rosh Hashanah as the "day of judgment." In the Gemora in Rosh Hashanah it states that three books of account are opened up on Rosh Hashanah, where the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of the go between categories are recorded.
The names of the righteous are instantly inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed "to live." The in between group are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and attempt to become righteous; the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living."
However all people are judged on the circumstances, personality, upbringing and on many other factors, so what one may do good during the year, might not be as good of that which some one less able had achieved, so Hashem judges man on his capabilities!
Rosh Hashanah is also known as the ‘day of remembrance.’ We blast the ‘Shofar’ on this festival, a trumpet made from a ram's horn, we remember how Hashem is the king of the world and we stand up before G-d.
Some of the reference's in the Torah within relation to the Shofar, is especially found in two places, in parshat Ba’ahalotacha, we learned about the trumpets that were to be blasted when the Jews were in the camp in the wilderness, also when the Jews received the Torah, at Mount Sinai, they heard a long blast of the Shofar, as related in parshat Ki Tisa.
Since the era of the destruction of the Second Temple during the tenure of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, the Jewish law appears to be that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days, due to the difficulty of finding out the date of the new moon.
We learn about the festival, as a day of rest, in parshat Emor, in the book of Vayikra. Also in the book of Nehemiah, we learn that Ezra referred this day as ‘holy to the lord.’
Various symbolic foods are eaten on this festival; they include dates, beans, leek, spinach and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Mishna and Talmud.
Pomegranates are customarily eaten in many of the Jewish circles. As the seeds in a pomegranate are abundant, so too we want our mitzvot observance levels to be in abundance.
The use of apples and honey is a strong tradition, Eating this especially promotes a happy, healthy and sweet new year. Honey is a great food through out the Torah, especially as the land that Hashem promised the Jews was a land rich in ‘milk and HONEY.’ Also, round challah bread is served in many communities, to represent the cycle of the year.
It is a good idea to be in a happy state of mind during this day and beseech Hashem in ones prayers. Also to greet other Jew’s with a greeting of ‘Shana Tova.’
Tashlikh, is a long-standing Jewish practice usually only done in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, however it can technically be said until Hoshana Rabbah. The previous year's transgressions are symbolically "cast off" by throwing pieces of bread, or a food of a similar kind, into a large, natural body of flowing water, such as a sea or lake.
We read the Torah on both days of Rosh Hashanah, both readings actually come from parshat Vayeira, the first day is from Chapter 21 and the second day from Chapter 22 of the book of Bereishit.
The first day’s reading describes how Isaac was born when Abraham was aged 100 years old and the second days reading describes how Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac, under G-d’s command. However a voice from heaven was heard, ordering him to stop, saying that it was a test. There was a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns; this was then offered in Isaac's place.
The Haftorah that we will read on the first day of this festival is from the opening chapter in the book of Shmual, it features Chana’s prayer of gratitude to Hashem, after Shmual was born. The second day’s Haftorah comes from Chapter 31 of the book of Jeremiah. This Haftorah talks about G-d's everlasting love for His people and the future ingathering of their exile.