Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashana (ראש השנה) The name "Rosh Hashana" is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on a Sabbath.

During Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them) Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This process of repentance is called teshuvah.

Yom Kippur is Judaism’s most sacred day of the year. On Yom Kippur, we say we're sorry, . In fact, the rabbis teach that for a complete teshuvah (repentance) to take effect, it requires us to admit our sins, apologize, and set things right for the future. That demonstrates sincere remorse and a desire for change. On Yom Kippur people participate in several customs and in the course of Yom Kippur we hold five prayer services.

Rosh Hashana Prayers & Blessings

Lighting Candles

On the first night, candles are lit right before sundown.
On the second night, candles are lit immediately after nightfall, kindled by an existing flame.

* The words in [brackets] should be read only on the sabbath.

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Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu
l'had'lik neir shel [shabbat v'shel] yom tov (Amein)

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
to light the candles of [Shabbat and of] the holiday (Amen)

  

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu
l'had'lik neir shel [shabbat v'shel] yom tov (Amein)

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the candles of [Shabbat and of] the holiday (Amen)

 

Apples and Honey

During Rosh Hashana, it is traditional to eat apples dipped in honey, to symbolize our hopes for a "sweet" new year.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam borei p'ri ha'eitz (Amein).

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree. (Amen)

Take a bite from the apple dipped in honey, then continue with the following:

y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha Adonai eloheinu vei'lohei avoteinu sh't'chadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tukah.

May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors that you renew for us a good and sweet year.

Source: Judaism 101

Rosh Hashana Rituals

The Shofar  (rams horn) is a ritual instrument is used to rouse the Divine in the listner during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. A total of 100 notes are sounded from the shofar each day, marking the end of the fast at Yom Kippur and four particular occasions in the prayers on Rosh Hashana.

A Shofar must be naturally hollow, through whom sound is produced by human breath. The pure and natural sound reminds us of the life we Jews are called to lead.  The most desirable shofar is the bent horn of a ram, which reminds us of Abraham's willing sacrifice. The curve in the horn mirrors the contrition of the one who repents.

Check out this video, Shofar Factory, to learn how a shofar is made.

For further reading on the sounds of a shofar, click here.

Apples & Honey are traditionally eaten during Rosh Hashana to symbolize our hopes for a "sweet" new year. The apple is dipped in honey, the blessing for eating tree fruits is recited, the apple is tasted, and then the apples and honey prayer is recited.

Round Challah bread symbolizes the circle of the life and the cycle of a new year. The challah is also in the shape of a crown because we refer to God as royalty several times throughout the holidays. 

Tashlikh (תשליך) is another ritual that may be practiced on this holiday. Tashlikh is usually performed on the first day of Rosh Hashana. We walk to flowing water (a creek or river, perhaps) on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets or toss bread, symbolically casting off our sins.  This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom.

Teshuvah (literally "returning") is the process by which Jews atone on Rosh Hashana and throughout the Ten Days of Awe. Jews are required to seek forgiveness from people that they may have wronged over the past year before seeking forgiveness from God.

Source: Jewish Virtual Library