Autumn is practically upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. While this signifies cooler days ahead, it also commences the start of the Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish people celebrate this special occurrence through prayer and reflection, festive meals, and listening to the sounds of the “shofar”, the sound of which is said to repent our sins. However, here are some more specific facts about Rosh Hashana that even Jewish people may be unfamiliar with:
Early Jews Consumed Pomegranate on the Second Night of Rosh Hashanah: According to the MyJewishLearning website, the Traditional Jewish tradition for Rosh Hashanah, which some may practice today, is to “eat a fruit you haven’t eaten for a long time on the second night of the three-day holiday”. Most Jews agreed on pomegranate to honor this tradition as it is an exotic fruit filled with not only tons of nutrients, but meaning to the Jewish population. The pomegranate is seen as a solution to the recitation of the Shehechiyanu-a blessing conducted on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Keep the tradition alive by eating pomegranate tonight and every second night of the holiday.
Tens of Thousands of Jews Travel to Ukraine for the Annual Kibbutz: In Uman, Ukraine, a lively gathering is hosted on Rosh Hashana called the “Kibbutz”. Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel here to not only celebrate with others around the world, but to honor the burial of Nachman of Bresliv and great-grandson Baal Shem Tov-both of whom founded the Breslover Hasidic Section that created Kibbutz.
Rosh Hashanah Used to Be Celebrated Through Telegrams: Before telephones and other forms of communications were introduced, Jewish people celebrated Rosh Hashanah through telegrams by wishing each other “Mazel Tov” and best wishes throughout the holiday. In fact, Jewish people were responsible for the biggest blood of telegrams in 1927 with other 40,000 messages sent! Many believe that this telegram usage was a key inspiration towards wishing others “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year”! Also, this telegram usage saw a 30% increase in telegram sales in the late 1920s, before it was outclassed by the telephone. Talk about a legacy of unity!
Rosh Hashanah Was Not Always Seen as Jewish New Year: According to the Torah, the Jewish New Year was originally seen at the beginning of the Nisan month (Spring month). However, after the codification of the Mishnah, a book describing Jewish law, the book declared Rosh Hashanah to be the true Jewish New Year. While the reasons for this change remain unknown, it is widely accepted that the reason lies in the Ancient Near East where people were celebrating their New Years and the Jewish chose to adapt.
The Shofar is Made from Real Animals: Shofar is made from the rams or horns of real dead animals. This use of animal rams was done out of reverence and reminds Jews that they (and other religions) must be respective towards animals and nature. The scent of the dead animal is why people complain about the shofar’s odor. While several shofar products are marketed exclusively for eliminating this scent, most Jews prefer the Traditional shofar to make the experience more “realistic”.
Rosh Hashanah is Not the Only Jewish New Year: According to the Mishnah, there are four Jewish New Years celebrated throughout the course of one American year. The first is Nisan, which is celebrated in Springtime around the same month as Passover. The second is Tu Bishvat, which is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which is also considered the “New Year” for trees. The third is Elul which marks the “New Year” for animals. The fourth is Rosh Hashanah, the most well known New Year of the Jewish calendar.
Rosh Hashanah is the Inspiration of Two Rock Songs: In Jewish liturgy, the prayer of Avinu Malkeinu is proclaimed, which translates to “Our Father, Our King”. This prayer has inspired Scottish Rock trio Mogwai to compose a 20 minute song of the same name. The melody alters for soft and reflective to loud and raging to replicate the feeling of rock-and-roll in a festive manner. Moreover, Leonard Cohen’s “Who’s on Fire” was based around the Unetanah Tokef, which is otherwise considered as the greatest and most important prayer in the liturgy. Both songs have over 2 million views online and wouldn’t be created if Rosh Hashanah didn’t exist.
With these facts in mind, let us keep honoring the Jewish New Year with praise, celebration, and reflection. And a Happy Rosh Hashanah to our Jewish folks! This ones for you!