Beginning at sundown on Friday, September 15, 2023, Jews around the world will begin to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which ends at sundown on Sunday, September 17, 2023. Rosh Hashanah literally translates to the "head of the year" in Hebrew and is considered a day for Jews to remember both the highs and lows of the past year, and look to how they may improve in the New Year. Reciting Rosh Hashanah prayers from the machzor (or prayer book used during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) is just one way to celebrate the Jewish Holiday.
Sounding a shofar (a ram's horn), enjoying festive meals such as round challah bread and apples dipped in honey, and attending Torah readings at your local synagogue are other traditional rituals many Jewish families practice during the holiday. Whether you are planning a Rosh Hashanah meal for your family and friends, are looking for ways to celebrate the New Year at home, or want to learn more about Rosh Hashanah prayers, these four selections are a great place to start when it comes to welcoming the Jewish New Year.
Candle lighting prayer
Lighting candles is a major part of all Jewish holidays. There are many reasons why candlelight is important in Jewish tradition, and a lot of it comes from the Torah. "The process of imposing order on chaos begins with the divine command, 'Let there be light' (Genesis 1:3)," says Ismar Schorsch, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary. As you light candles this Rosh Hashanah, you can say the following prayer:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel (Shabbat v'shel) Yom Tov.
The English translation is: "Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the world, who sanctifies us with mitzvot and calls upon us to kindle the lights of (Shabbat and) the Festival day."
The Kiddush is a blessing to sanctify the beginning of the holiday. It is said over a glass of wine or grape juice.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, borei p'ri hagafen.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher bachar banu mikol-am, v’rom’manu mikol-lashon, kid'shanu b'mitzvotav. Va-titen-lanu Adonai Eloheinu, b’ahavah et-yom ha-zikaron ha-zeh, yom T’ruah, mikrah kodesh, zacher li-tzi-at Mitrayim. Ki vanu vacharta, v'otanu kidashta, mikol haamim, ud’vrachah emet v’kayam la-ad. Baruch atah, Adonai, Melech al kol ha-aretz, mikadesh Yisrael v’yom hazikaron.
The English translation is:
"Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has chosen us from all the peoples, hallowing us with mitzvot. In Your love, Adonai our God, You have given us this Day of Remembrance, to hear the sound of the Shofar, to unite in worship, and to recall the Exodus from Egypt. For You have chosen us from all the peoples, consecrating us to Your service, and Your word is truth eternal. Praised is the Sovereign God, Sovereign of all the world, who hallows the House of Israel and the Day of Remembrance."
The Shehecheyanu is a prayer that Jews say to mark special occasions. It is said on especially holy days, but it is also said as a celebration and thank you for blessings that occur in everyday life, such as the birth of a child, getting a new job, or achieving something you worked very hard for or didn't think you could accomplish. As Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, it is an important time to say the Shehecheyanu.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
In English: "Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season."
Blessing over apples and honey
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews eat apples dipped in honey to signify the sweet new year. If you're enjoying the special new year treat, then you can say this two-part prayer before enjoying the sweet treat.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-eitz.
In English: "We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the tree."
Y’hi ratzon milfanecha, Adonai Eloheinu v’Elohei
avoteinu v’imoteinu, shetchadesh aleinu shanah tovah um’tukah.
In English: "May it be Your will, Eternal our God, that this be a good and sweet year for us."
Rosh Hashanah greetings
It's certainly appropriate to wish someone celebrating Rosh Hashanah a happy and healthy New Year. You can also use the Hebrew greeting Shanah Tovah, which translates to, "For a good and sweet year."
Whether you're celebrating the High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah in a synagogue or at home this year, these prayers can provide comfort and celebration as you reflect on the past year and prepare to enter the new one. Shanah Tovah!
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