Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays or Yamim Noraim ("Days of Awe"). It is celebrated ten days before Yom Kippur, and is observed on the first two days of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It is described in the Torah as Yom Teru'ah, the "day of the sounding of the shofar." From Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah can literally be translated to "head of the year" or "first of the year."
[The shofar is a ram's horn (pictured); it is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. The shofar is traditionally blown each morning for the entire month of Elul, which is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. Orthodox and some Conservative Jewish communities do not blow the shofar on Shabbat (the seventh day of the Jewish week.]
In 2010, Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on Sept. 8. It ran from sunset on September 8, 2010 to sunset on September 10, 2010. Next year, it will be celebrated from sunset on September 16, 2012 to sunset on September 18, 2012.
According to Judaism 101, except for one factor, there is little similarity between the Jewish New Year and the Western New Yeawr. Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year, while the drinking and relative debauchery that occurs in Western cultures is decidedly different. However, the similarity is that in both cases, many use the New Year, Jewish or Western, as a time to make "resolutions" or improvements in one's life.
Wikipedia has a list of traditional greetings associated with the holiday:
- On the first night of Rosh Hashanah after the evening prayer, it is the Ashkenazi and Hasidic custom to wish Leshana Tova Tikoseiv Vesichoseim (Le'Alter LeChaim Tovim U'Leshalom) which is Hebrew for "May you (immediately) be inscribed and sealed for a Good Year (and for a Good and Peaceful Life)"
- Shana Tova (pronounced [ʃaˈna toˈva]) is the traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah which in Hebrew means "A Good Year." (שנה טובה)
- Shana Tova Umetukah is Hebrew for "A Good and Sweet Year." (שנה טובה ומתוקה)
- Ketiva ve-chatima tovah which translates as "May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year."
- The formal Sephardic greeting is Tizku leshanim rabbot ("may you merit many years"), to which the answer is ne'imot ve-tovot ("pleasant and good ones"). Less formally, people wish each other "many years" in the local language.
- In Yiddish, it is common to wish someone גוט־יאָר (gut-yor) or "Good Year" on and around Rosh Hashanah.
The Rosh Hashanah holiday occurs exactly 163 days after the first day of Passover. The earliest date on which it can fall on in the Gregorian Calendar is September 5. The next time this will happen is in 2013.
The latest date, with regard to the Gregorian Calendar, that Rosh Hashanah can occur is October 5. The next time that will happen is 2043. After 2089, the differences between the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will result in the holiday occurring no earlier than September 6th.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons