Rosh HaShanah Customs and Rituals

There are many rituals and customs associated with Rosh HaShanah, including:

  • Blowing a shofar (ram’s horn) calls community members to atone. At the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, the shofar sounded to announce the Sabbath and the New Moon; it proclaimed the anointing of a new king. Rosh HaShanah is sometimes known as the “memorial of blowing.”

  • Eating a round challah instead of a traditional long one. This round shape symbolizes the circle of life, and the continuity of the calendar year. Sometimes, bakers include raisins or add sprinkles to the dough.

  • In some Jewish communities, eating the head of a fish symbolizes the name of this new year, which in Hebrew is translated as “head of the year.”

  • Enjoying sliced apples and honey is a very popular ritual. Apples are often incorporated into artwork and graphics associated with this holiday.

  • Another ritual is tashlich, to walk to a river or body of water and recite special prayers of penitence. Afterwards, those present throw breadcrumbs into the body of water, a ritual which symbolizes the casting away of one’s sins.

  • In some communities, individuals get a haircut at Rosh HaShanah and get new clothes.

  • Give tzedakah (make a donation). As part of improving ourselves, we also want to help improve the world. Tikun olam (repairing the world aka social action) is a very important mitzvah in Judaism.

We practice the following on Yom Kippur:

  • No eating or drinking from sunset to after sundown the next day when there are three stars in the sky (Except for those who are pregnant, nursing or cannot do so for medical reasons).

  • No wearing of leather shoes or clothing made of leather

  • Hearing the shofar.

  • Attend the Yizkor Memorial service during the day.

  • Writing a letter to oneself to remind yourself how to be a better person in the coming year

  • Break one’s fast after sundown with family and/or friends

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