Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a time of year focused on change, growth, and renewal. It is a new beginning, where you can focus on improving yourself and asking God for success in the coming year. Before we celebrate the New Year, there is a tradition to ask forgiveness from friends and family so we can begin the year ahead with a clean slate. There are many different symbols and traditions involved in the holiday. We eat round challahs and dip the bread into honey to symbolize a full circle and a sweet new year. One of my favorite symbols is the pomegranate. During the festive meal we eat many foods that symbolize different hopes and desires for the new year. While eating the pomegranate we say “ “May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”
It is especially unique celebrating Rosh Hashanah in Israel because you can feel and experience the holiday arriving just by walking around in nature or in the streets. Pomegranates trees are in bloom, and people wish you a “shana tova”, or a good year. Even the buses say “shana tova” on them in preparation for the holiday. If you visit the Kotel during the holiday you will see crowds of Jews going to the holy site to pray. It is incredibly powerful to pray and ask God to grant you a year filled with health and success in the holiest place in the world.
One of the main aspects of Rosh Hashanah prayer is hearing the shofar being blown. During the prayer services we hear the blasts 100 times. Hearing the shofar being blown helps us focus and concentrate on our prayers. It is also customary to eat new fruits, wear new clothing or jewelry, invite guests over and have festive meals. Wishing everyone a happy new year from Israel!