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Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
By Sarah Lane
Aug 10, 2006, 07:16 PST



Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

This year the most important Jewish holiday season will start on September 15th at sundown and continue through Yom Kippur on September 24th. Using the Jewish calendar, the dates would be from 1 Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish calendar) through 10 Tishri in the year 5763. There will be prayers, food and fasting, and ten days to think about what has gone wrong in the past year. These ten days are called the Jewish High Holy Days or Yamin Nora’im. They begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur. During this time, Jewish people worldwide are given time to make up for their sins. They visit the synagogue or shul, praying to God for forgiveness. They also pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life, which we will describe below . . . read on!


Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah will begin on Friday, September 15th at sundown. Rosh Hashanah means ‘head of the year’ or ‘first of the year.’ This Jewish New Year is celebrated on the first and second days of the ten day period. Work is not allowed during this time with the exception of activities that involve getting ready for the feast, such as cooking and baking. Large family gatherings are held with symbolic meals on Rosh Hashanah. Foods made extra sweet with honey, apples, and carrots symbolize sweetness, blessings, abundance, and the hope for a sweet year ahead. According to Jewish faith, the destiny of all mankind is recorded by God in the Book of Life on this holiday. At the end of the 10-day period, the book is closed and sealed on Yom Kippur. Those who have made up for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.

Rosh Hashanah, the start of this symbolic time period, is important for four different reasons:

It is the Jewish New Year when cards are exchanged along with prayers and sweet foods for a sweet New Year.

It is the Day of Judgement when Jewish people worldwide examine their past deeds and ask for forgiveness of their sins.

It is the Day of Remembrance when the Jewish culture reviews the history of their people and pray for Israel.

It is also the Day of Shofar Blowing. This is a tradition where a Shofar, or rams horn, is blown in temple to mark the start of the Jewish High Holy Days.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated during the first and second days because this holiday is thought to be too important to be limited to 24 hours. The two days are combined to form one day of 48 hours. Traditions include the Shofar Blowing as mentioned above, After temple, people say to their neighbors, ‘May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.’ It is also important to visit a body of water, or pond containing fish, to symbolically ‘cast away’ sins. The fish depend on water to survive as the Jewish people depend on God. It is also said that a fishes eyes never close just as the watchful gaze of God is always upon us.



Yom Kippur begins on Sunday, September 24th at sundown. Yom Kippur means the Day of Atonement or ‘Afflict the Soul.’ This is the most sad, yet sacred, day of the Jewish Year. It is the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths.’ It is on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month, and is a day of fasting, prayers, and reflection. The day before this is a day to ask forgiveness for promises broken between people, as God can only forgive promises broken to him on Yom Kippur.

On this serious day there is no blowing of the Shofar. Jews cannot eat, drink, anoint themselves with perfumes or lotions, have marital relations, wash, or wear leather shoes. To fast (or not eat) on Yom Kippur is to imitate the angels in heaven who do not eat, drink, or wash. Children under age nine and women in childbirth are not allowed to fast as it could pose a health risk. Feasting on the ninth and fasting on the tenth is equal to two days of fasting according to beliefs. The day before this is devoted to eating and preparing for the fast.

On this last day of the Jewish High Holy Days, people gather at the synagogue and men wear prayer shawls not normally worn at night. It is customary to wear white on this day to symbolize purity and to remind each other of the promise that all sins will be forgiven. At this time Vidui, or confession, is very important. It is a time to think about one’s misdeeds and confess them aloud, asking for God’s forgiveness. The last hour of Yom Kippur ends with a service called Ne’ila, which is a final chance for repentance. This is the only service of the year where the doors to the Ark (or the place where the sacred Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the start to the finish of the service. This symbolizes the fact that the gates of heaven are open at this time. The closing prayer is ‘The Lord is our God,’ the Shofar is blown once declaring the ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’, the Book of Life is closed by God, and the holiday is over.

Source: Tracy R. Rich, Holidays on the Net, Torah Tots, Inc.




Additional Learning Links for Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

The Premier Jewish Site for Children
An excellent site for young children with coloring pages, stories, and fun activities to help them understand the holidays.
Source: Torah Tots, Inc.

High Holy Days on the Net
A premier web site for every holiday known to man, there are countless ways to celebrate here. Read stories, the history, and find activities associated with your favorite time of year.
Source: Holidays on the Net, Inc.

Uncle Eli Repents
This pictorial prayer book is a guide to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for children of all ages. Listen to the sound of a traditional Shofar and follow along while viewing colorful pictures.
Source: Eliezer Lorne Segal

Judaism 101
A complete online Encyclopedia of Judaism, this covers everything from beliefs to people, places, holidays, and customs. Visit the Table of Contents to get started.
Source: Tracy R. Rich

Books for Jewish Kids
This site is great for getting plenty of suggestions for young readers. Scroll down the page to see the covers of the books in color, complete with a summary of each story.
Source: Books4Jewishkids.tripod.com

The Jewish Children’s Learning Network
Learn about Israel, Jewish holidays, Hebrew Heroes from the Torah, and check out the Children’s Parsha. There are calendars, timelines, and plenty of fun.
Source: Akhlah




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