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Mazaltov.co.uk  - Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah)
The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. It marks the beginning of a new year in the Jewish calendar and includes several ceremonies and rituals which are unique to the Jewish culture, most notably blowing the shofar (a horn, traditionally made of a ram), eating symbolic foods and performing a ritual called tashlikh.

The origin of the term Rosh Hashanah is not entirely clear. It does not appear in the Torah but it is found in the Jewish liturgy where it is described as the day of remembrance and the day of judgment but it is also mentioned in relation to blowing horns. In contrary to the new year in the Gregorian calendar which does not have any religious significance, Rosh Hashanah does. According to the Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah represents the creation of the World or according to some Jewish scholars, the creation of man which took place 5773 years ago. As a result, Rosh Hashanah is also observed in synagogues by adding various prayers and religious poems to the regular service as well as shofar blowing.

In the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah - Elul, the shofar is blown every morning except on Sabbath to remind the Jews that they should prepare themselves for the impeding new year by self-examination and repentance. The festive atmosphere increases as the New Year’s Eve (Erev Rosh Hashanah) approaches. Many Jews visit the morning prayer services, while many Orthodox men perform mikveh (take a ritual bath to achieve spiritual purity).

Celebration of Rosh Hashanah also involves eating of symbolic food. Rosh Hashanah meal typically includes apples and honey to “sweeten up” the new year. Other foods that are usually served include dates, pomegranates, leek, gourd, black-eyed peas and some other foods that are mentioned by the Talmud. Interestingly, apples dipped in honey which symbolise sweet new year and are today widely accepted by most Jewish communities were added to the Rosh Hashanah meal only in the Middle Ages by the Ashkenazi Jews. Some Jewish communities also keep a special Rosh Hashanash Seder which involves reciting of various blessings over served dishes.

On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, most Jewish communities perform a ritual known as the tashlikh. It involves reciting of prayers near natural flowing water with an aim to cast the sins into the water which then carries them away. However, the tashlikh is postponed on the second day of Rosh Hashanah if the first day fall on Sabbath. The tashlikh is traditionally performed individually but in the recent years it is often performed in groups.

According to the Torah, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated a single day but after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, it became a two-day celebration although some Jewish communities celebrate only the first day of the New Year until the late Middle Ages. Rosh Hashanah occurs on the 163rd day after Passover but the Jewish calendar is arranged in a way that the New Year never starts on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.