Here are a number of brief answers to the most commonly asked questions ahead of Rosh Hashanah. Where we’ve written longer articles on the subject, we’ll link to those as well.
When is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the 7th month, which is the month of Tishrei. In general, this will fall into early autumn. On the Gregorian calendar, the holiday will begin sunset of 15 September 2023, 2 October, 2024, and 22 September 2025.
What does “Rosh Hashanah” mean?
The name for the holiday, “Rosh Hashanah” means literally “head / top of the year” as it is the start of the calendar year. Other names for the holiday include Yom Teruah (“day of shofar blowing”) seen in Leviticus 23:24, Zichron Teruah (“a memorial of blowing [horns]”), or Yom Hazikaron (“day of remembrance”), not to be confused with the modern Israeli holiday of the same name.
How long does Rosh Hashanah last?
Rosh Hashanah lasts two days, even in Israel, which is the only instance when that happens. It goes from sunset until nightfall on the respective days, thus working out to be roughly 49 hours.
What are the greetings and blessings exchanged on Rosh Hashanah?
Shanah tovah: [Have a] good year
Shanah tovah umetukah: [Have a] good and sweet year
Ketivah v’chatima tovah: [Have a] good inscription and sealing (in the Book of Life)
Gemar chatimah tovah: [Have a] good completed sealing (in the Book of Life)
What are some typical foods eaten during Rosh Hashanah?
The New Year is celebrated with eating special foods for it, especially seasonal fruits. These include apples and honey, pomegranates, fish, leeks, black eyed peas, and carrots. People can cook these into nice dishes or have them on their own, raw. Some people also like to eat a fruit, or a variety of fruit, he or she has never eaten before at all.
Is fasting required on Rosh Hashanah?
No fasting is required for Rosh Hashanah, and in fact one is not allowed to fast on the holiday. On Shabbat and all the chagim (holidays instructed in the Torah), they are times of joy and everyone is compelled to eat. The only exception to this is Yom Kippur which is a fast day, so as to focus only on the spirituality.
How is Rosh Hashanah different from Yom Kippur?
While the two holidays are connected thematically—Rosh Hashanah is the day one’s fate for the next year is written in the Book of Life and Yom Kippur is the day that sets it in stone, so to speak—the holidays themselves have different liturgies, along with tones and associated commandments. On Rosh Hashanah, there are grand meals with special foods as people dress in their finest, while on Yom Kippur, eating, washing, marital intimacy, and wearing leather etc. are not permitted so as to focus on the spirituality.