Rosh Hashanah is coming up for the Jewish people and is really the kick-off of major Jewish holidays, including the holiest days of the year Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Rosh Chodesh. For most who don’t know what Rosh Hashanah is, I will provide a description from the internet and then share my first experience of Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and, along with Yom Kippur, known to be Yamim Nora’im, which is Hebrew for “days of awe”. Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew. It is believed by the Jewish that this is when God created the world, so Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish celebration of the birth of the world. Per Jewish tradition: “Rosh HaShanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei. Jewish tradition teaches that, during the High Holy Days, God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year.” It is during this period of time Jews spend time meditating on the path their lives are taking in preparation for Yom Kippur, which is the day Jews spend repenting. Jews do not believe in wasting their lives wallowing in guilt but strive to do better and Yom Kippur serves as a reminder as we pray and fast - we do not take in fluids or food from sunset on Erev Yom Kippur to the conclusion of Yom Kippur the following sunset.
Rosh Hashanah is my favorite time of year because it is believed to be the celebration of the birth of the world but it also promises fall being shortly around the corner and relief from the dog days of summer. My first Rosh Hashanah was actually spent at the little synagogue where I still hold membership, which is located in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ottumwa once held a vibrant Jewish community with B’Nai Jacob Synagogue as the center that held the Jewish community together. Of course, the Jewish population dwindled with time as families moved to either coast or larger Midwestern cities. But a few families have held on and the synagogue was refurbished and open to the public for Rosh Hashanah in 2005. It was with joy I attended services there and learned more about Yom Kippur and Jewish life in Ottumwa. It was during this time period I was contemplating whether to begin the conversion process or not. Well, the beauty of this service testified to the strength of the Jewish people, holding on to tradition, the holidays, and one another.
I found a wonderful summary of Rosh Hashanah on About.com. I will conclude my thoughts on Rosh Hashanah with a quote of theirs that is so fitting: “Even though the theme of Rosh HaShanah is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope for the New Year. Jews believe that God is compassionate and just, and that God will accept their prayers for forgiveness.”