What Is Rosh Hashanah?

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You may or may not have heard that Rosh Hashanah, or the start of the Jewish High Holidays, begins Monday night at sundown, but what is Rosh Hashanah and what are the High Holidays?

Rosh Hashanah

In its simplest definition, Rosh Hashanah, which is translated to “the head of the year,” is the Jewish New Year 5782.

“Rosh Hashanah sort of opens the period of intense retrospection that leads up to that moment of atonement,” Mehta said. “But it’s also a joyous holiday in which people celebrate and hope for a sweet new year, a happier, an enriching New Year.”

Rabbi Charlie Schwartz, senior director of Jewish education at Hillel International, called Rosh Hashanah “a time of reflection and reset and reevaluation.” 

“It’s a time to reflect and evaluate, and to think about what you want to do differently and what you want to achieve in the upcoming year,” Schwartz said.

Source: USA Today


Rosh Hashanah lasts for 48 hours, which means it ends on sundown on Wednesday. Rosh Hashanah is also the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays, which includes the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest of holidays. It’s a time for introspection.

Traditionally, people eat and pray around a simple snack of apples and honey, representative of a sweet new year. In Israel, people celebrate with a round braided bread called challah, which represents the cycle of the year and pomegranates, for the 613 mitzvoth (commandments) in the Torah. Some might also cast challah into water while praying to “cast off” sins. Most celebrations include Synagogue services and blowing into the Shofar, which looks a bit like a cornucopia, as a call for repentance.

The traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting is “Shanah Tovah,” which means “good year” in Hebrew.

Unlike Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah generally means business as usual. While during Yom Kippur, observant Jews are forbidden from using modern conveniences such as electricity and cars, as well as from working, most businesses are open on Rosh Hashanah.