Rosh Hashana 5783

Holiday #1 (315)
Rosh HaShana 5783 Sept. 25-27, 2022
From Ascent Quarterly From the Kabbalists From the Chasidic Masters Some Laws & Customs
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From the Kabbalists

There are many levels of understanding the significance of Rosh Hashana also being Rosh Chodesh (New Moon Day). Every Rosh Chodesh inaugurates an entirely new energy and a new opportunity to begin again. The ability to renew and rejuvenate is one of the secrets of the Jewish calendar being based on the lunar cycle. The capacity to begin again and again lies at the very root of Jewish survival. Rosh Hashana, the new year, is the "headquarters" for newness, thus it shares the same energy as Rosh Chodesh.

The shape of the moon on Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashana is but a thin cup like sliver seen for a short time in the western sky before going down at sunset. The judgement taking place on Rosh Hashana is similarly very hidden, yet a sliver of the light does reach us. We can envision the shape of the moon representing our heartfelt prayers to create a vessel to receive blessings. God wants to give us so much - the question is do we have vessels to receive it.

The Midrash states that when the moon was created it complained to God that both it and the sun could not wear the same crown. Therefore God made it smaller. A different Midrash states that every Rosh Chodesh, God - as it were - brings a guilt offering for making the moon small. Rosh Hashana comes on a Rosh Chodesh in order to teach us that since we should not judge anyone till we stand in their place, God - so to speak - whispers to us that he empathizes with our situation and thus understands our desire for rectification and forgiveness, for He too brings a guilt offering on this day! This parable represents the judgement on Rosh Hashana as one of understanding and compassion.

From the Chasidic Masters

In the future, when Moshiach comes, every creation in this world will understand and recognize that there is a
G-dly power within which makes it exist and gives it its life-force. This is the meaning of the line from the Amida prayer which we say on Rosh Hashana. We beseech G-d to reveal His Kingship in this world - "May everything that has been made know that You made it"- because in truth nothing exists without this G-dliness.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)

From Ascent Quarterly - "Shoot!" Q&A column

Q: Wouldn't it be better to have Yom Kippur first, to be forgiven before the day of judgment?

A: (from Yerachmiel Tilles, editor)

The best of all possible scenarios would be if we would all regret and turn away from every single one of our intentional sins before Rosh Hashanah, thus securing a good judgment immediately on that day. Then the atonement powers of Yom Kippur could be utilized primarily for its original function of providing forgiveness for unintentional sins, and we could bask in the special purity of the day in order to forge a closer relationship with G-d, instead of having to be pre-occupied with all of our negative baggage. Instead of spending the day confessing sins, it would be much better and feel much better if we could be professing love instead.

As it is, we are promised that all those with a positive record for the year in which their merits are dominant are immediately inscribed on Rosh Hashanah in the Book of Life. So, for them the progression from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is certainly in its proper order. Hopefully, this category includes a vast amount of the Jewish population.

For most of the rest of us, those whose records for the year are more or less balanced, the experience of Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgment hopefully serves to inspire us to utilize the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in their intended designation: the Days of Tshuvah, a special opportunity to return to G-d and His path during the period of time when he is most receptive. Then we too, along with the righteous who were already inscribed for good on Rosh Hashanah, will be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur for a good and sweet year.

Some Laws and Customs

The foods eaten during Rosh Hoshana are all quite symbolic. Perhaps the most well-known is an apple dipped in honey at the beginning of the Rosh Hoshana meal. We first recite a blessing in which we ask to be blessed with a good and sweet year. We also dip our challah in honey for the same reason. Furthermore, there is a custom to eat round challas, sometimes with raisins to increase the sweetness. The idea of something round is that of completeness. We want our year to be wholesome, round and sweet.

Other customs include the eating of a pomegranate of which we say a blessing asking that our merits be as numerous as its seeds. There is the idea that in a perfect pomegranate there are 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot that a Jew is commanded to keep.

Also on the first night of Rosh Hoshana people place on the table the head of either a fish or sometime even a sheep. The animal head represents that of being the head of the new year and that we are always leading with our head, as opposed to our hearts. As we say in the blessing that we be as the "head and not the tail."

People also eat fish during the meal since fish represent multiplicity and we ask to be blessed to have children as numerous as the fish in the sea. Fish are also only able to survive within water, and the water is an allusion to the Torah which we refer to as the "living waters." Therefore, as we eat fish we are reminded that we too should live only through the Torah and like a fish never closes its eyes, so our eyes should always be open to the miracles that surround us.


"Out with the old year and its curses!
In with the new year and its blessings!"

"L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim"


The ASCENT staff


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