The purpose of religion is to have a direct connection with a higher power, and within many religions, there are certain ceremonial practices to celebrate and show respect to that power. One of the oldest and tradition-rich celebratory customs is within the Jewish religion.
Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year, and is otherwise known as the “Head of the Year.” The Jews see this as a period as a time of prayer, self-reflection, and repentance. This holiday is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which aligns with the September or October on the secular calendar. It is then continually observed for the next ten days and consists of several customs, including sounding the shofar and eating a round challah.
This day is also seen as the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, thus the creation of mankind and the acts that led to its eventual downfall. Therefore, Rosh HaShanah not only is celebrated as a fresh start to a new year, but also a commemoration of humanity’s rebellion against God.
The tradition of Rosh HaShanah originated from the Bible, in the Book of Leviticus 23: 24-25, which states “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of rest, a memorial proclaimed with the blowing of the shofar, a holy convocation. The Jewish calendar contains four “new years” overall, which each having a specific purport.
The first of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the New Year of Kings, was the date used to calculate the number of years a given king had reigned. The first of the Hebrew month of Elul was the new year for tithing of cattle, a time when one of every 10 cattle was marked and offered as a sacrifice to God. The first of the Hebrew month of Tishrei was the agricultural new year, or the New Year of the Years. The 15th of the Hebrew month of Sh’vat, known as Tu BiSh’vat, was the New Year of the Trees.
It is important to note, however, that Scripture only proclaims this commemoration as a day of observation, but through time and traditions, had evolved into a Jewish New Year as we see today.
A pivotal day within the New Year period is the day of Yom Kippur, which is translated to the “Day of Atonement,” It is considered the holiest day, and is mentioned in the Book of Leviticus 23:27, “the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial.” To adhere to the premise of repentance on this day, Jewish people will undergo a 25-hour period of fasting along with rigorous prayer. These courses of self-denial are to thoroughly cleanse the person through their mind, body, soul, so that they can be reconciled to God as well as other believers. In a sense, it is to find peace with God, within themselves, and with each other.
Even though Rosh HaShanah is a tradition that the Jewish religion practices, the journey to find peace and reconciliation can be found in many other religions too. With peace being the core of all these teachings and traditions, it’s worth considering how these can be used for the greater good.