“In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, there shall be a solemn rest for you, a sacred convocation proclaimed with a blast of ram’s horns, you shall not do any work.”
The High Holy Days, The High Holidays, and The Days of Awe are all names for the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah, which translates as “head of the year”, begins at sundown on the first day of the seventh lunar month, known as Tishri. It may seem confusing celebrating the beginning of the year during the seventh month, however, in ancient times the Jewish calendar honored four new years: The New Year of the Kings (to keep track of the current king’s reign); The New Year for the Tithing of the Cattle (when a specified amount of cattle were sacrificed); The New Year of the Trees; and The Start of the Agricultural Year, this is the one when Rosh Hashanah is celebrated.
The start of Rosh Hashanah begins with a candle blessing, a Kiddush, and a special meal. A Kiddush is a blessing recited over wine. The meal includes challah, an egg bread that is usually braided but for the new year is baked round, symbolic of the hope for a smooth new year and shaped like a crown, symbolic of God, the king of Heaven. Apples dipped in honey are also served with wishes for a sweet and fruitful new year. Nuts are not usually consumed during this time as the Hebrew word for nut is egoz and has a numerical equivalent to the Hebrew word for sin.
Jewish people worldwide attend services at their local synagogue and hear the sounding of the shofar (a ram’s horn). The days that follow are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. This is an introspective time when people look at what they have done and ask forgiveness of God and of those they have wronged throughout the year.
Within the first two days it is customary to visit a body of water such as a river, a lake, or the sea and throw breadcrumbs onto the water, symbolic of casting ones’ sins away. This is know as Tashlich and is accompanied by reciting verses from the Prophet Micah as well as various Psalms.
Ten days after the start of Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. This is a day of fasting and prayer. It is customary to wear white garments on Yom Kippur symbolizing the angles in heaven and purity. During Rosh Hashanah God passed judgment over mankind. It is recorded in the Book of Life and on Yom Kippur the book is closed and sealed. There are Five Prohibitions of Yom Kippur:
- No eating or drinking
- No wearing of perfumes or lotions
- No marital relations
- No washing
- No wearing of leather shoes
On the last hour of the last service on Yom Kippur the shofar is sounded again announcing the end of the High Holidays.
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