Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah
The New Jewish Year

What is Rosh Hashanah?

According to the Jewish tradition, creation began on the twenty-fifth of Elul, five days before Rosh Hashana. The sixth day of creation – the day that man came into existence – was the first day of Tishrei (Rosh Hashana). In the Mussaf liturgy of Rosh Hashana we read: This day [is the anniversary of] the start of Your work, a remembrance of the first day. While the birthday of creation took place five days prior, the first day of mankind was on Rosh Hashana. Because the purpose of creation is man, the work of G-d is considered to have begun on this day. Thus, we begin each year anew on man’s birthday.
But this birthday isn’t a day of fun and entertainment. While it is a joyful holiday, it is also serious, because of its designation as a day of judgment. The Mishna in Meseches Rosh Hashana states: At four times [of the year] the world is judged…on Rosh Hashana all who walk the earth pass before Him like young sheep… Like young sheep who pass through a small opening in the fence to be counted by their shepherd one by one, so does all mankind pass before their Creator to be judged individually on this day.

 

Malchuyot – Zichronot – Shofrot

There are three “Themes” for Rosh Hashanah:

Most of mankind is oblivious to this reality. G-d, however, informed the Jewish nation about the power of this fantastic day so that they could utilize it correctly. We were taught about three overriding themes that operate on this day, and which we stress in our prayers. In the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 16a) it states thus:
The Holy One, blessed is He, said, “…recite before me on Rosh Hashana [verses pertaining to] Malchiyos (Kingship), Zichronos (Remembrance), and Shofros (Shofar blasts). Malchiyos, so that you should make me your king, Zichornos, so that your remembrance should ascend to me for your benefit, and how? With a Shofar.

Malchuyot – Zichronot – Shofrot

Malchuyot – Zichronot – Shofrot

Malchuyot – Kingship
There can be no king without subjects. While G-d doesn’t lack anything, He became known as “King” after man was created, as there were now subjects to rule over. Thus, the first and most elementary theme of Rosh Hashana is to recognize this relationship – that Hashem is our G-d and that we are His servants.
What is meant by “King”? Does G-d require pomp and fanfare so that He be recognized like the vain ambitions of earthly kings? Certainly not. Rather, Hashem knows that we stand to gain by serving Him and by carrying out His mission in this world. It wasn’t for His own benefit that G-d created this world – it was for ours. By being faithful servants of G-d, we “make” Him into our King, and we benefit ourselves to the highest degree possible.
Zichronos - Remembrances

Zichronos – Remembrances

Zichronos – Remembrances
A fair judgment requires a precise recollection of past events, a clear understanding of the present, and a keen insight into all future possibilities. And while a judge requires all these factors to reach a clear verdict, G-d’s determination is of an entirely different nature. Hashem is in no way limited to the rules of nature and is therefore above the bounds of time. Thus, while man must exert his mind to understand past events and to predict future ones, G-d has no such need. With one glance, so to speak, Hashem has a complete and fully accurate understanding of all events. More so, Hashem understands man’s potential, limitations, ambitions, desires, and every other factor that influences us. Unlike a human judge who can never dream of issuing a flawless verdict due to human limitations, G-d has no such impediment. When we say that G-d “remembers” on judgment day, the intention is that every possible calculation is considered and weighed in that “one glance” of G-d.
Shofros – Shofar blasts

Shofros – Shofar blasts

Shofros – Shofar blasts
What is it about the primitive instrument of a ram’s horn that carries so much weight on judgment day? Why not use a flute, a clarinet, or some other instrument capable of stirring melody?
The ancients state that the piercing sound of the shofar represents the inarticulate cry that bubbles forth from the deepest recesses of man’s soul. Not only are we unworthy to stand on our own merit, we aren’t even capable of articulating our own needs. Rather, we allow our undeciphered cry to ascend heavenward like the sound of the primitive shofar blast. There, we pray, it be understood as our deepest desire to perform G-d’s will, and thus be accepted, sympathized, and consoled.
Rambam offers a well-known reason for the biblical command to hear the shofar. He states that it contains a symbolism which we ought to consider. The Shofar blasts urge us to awaken from our year-long slumber and to repent. It motivates us to consider our souls and improve our ways.
Numerous reasons are suggested for the mitzvah of Shofar. In fact, Rabbi Saadia Gaon enumerates ten. Here we list some of them:(1) Trumpets are customarily blown when coronating a king. We too proclaim Hashem as our king on the anniversary of creation.
(2) To remind us of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai when a very great Shofar blast was heard that grew louder and louder.
(3) To remind us of Akeidas Yitzchak where a ram was offered up to G-d in place of Abraham’s son.
(4) As a form of yearning for Moshiach and the ingathering of the exiles when a great shofar will blow and those who went lost will bow at G-d’s holy mountain.
(5) To hint to techiyas hameisim – the resurrection of the dead – which will be accompanied by the sounding of the Shofar.

Every Jew is obligated to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashana which includes three types of blasts: Tekia, a long strong sound; Shevarim, a broken sound; and Terua, a sobbing sound. It is interesting to note that every “broken” (Shevarim) and “sobbing” (Terua) sound is bracketed both before and after by a Tekia (strong) sound. This teaches that while Teshuva takes us from a state of strength to a state of being broken and tears, we do not become depressed or develop negative self-esteem. Rather, we end on a Tekia – a strong note – because Teshuva allows us to go forward with confidence. We move forward from a point of strength, not weakness.

Our Power to Wish

The Talmud teaches that a covenant was cut with the lips. This means that man’s words have a tremendous impact, whether we are aware of it or not. One who blesses another Jew engages in an act of kindness. This is especially true if the blessing stems from a feeling of love for one’s fellow Jew, in which case he will have fulfilled the biblical command of v’ahavta lreiacha kamocha.
While this is true all year round, it is especially relevant on Rosh Hashana when each man’s judgment hangs in the balance. Thus, halachic sources present various versions of Rosh Hashana greetings that are customarily used when greeting one another on Rosh Hashana eve.
The longest version in use is L’shana Tova Tikasev V’sechasem L’alter, L’chaim Tovim, Ulishalom (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year immediately, for a good life and for peace). Another common greeting used is “Kesiva V’chasima Tova” (Be written and sealed for the good). After Rosh Hashana, this greeting is altered to “Gmar Chasima Tova” (A final sealing for the good), as the verdict was written already on Rosh Hashana. The sealing will take place on Yom Kippur.
Because Hebrew grammar requires different word usages depending on who is being addressed (one vs many) and which gender, we find four different possibilities.

 

The Simanim

The Talmud records: Abaye taught: …an omen has meaning; one should accustom himself at the beginning of the year to eat gourds, fenugreek, leeks, beets, and dates. Rashi explains that some of these foods are sweet and others grow quickly. Thus, they symbolize a sweet year and a year full of abundance. The word “Simanim” means signs. This does not mean, however, that we engage in any kind of “good luck charm” for good fortune. Rather, these are signs of faith and trust in Hashem. We place our faith in Hashem that He extend us a sweet year of abundance.
It is customary to recite a short prayer before eating these and other symbolic foods. We pray for a sweet year, for increased merit, for the elimination of our enemies, and more. We hope also that if G-d forbid there is a bad heavenly decree, then these prayers and demonstrations of faith will help switch it to the good.  Halachic sources point out that we are not limited to the foods mentioned in the Talmud. Other foods can be symbolic as well, such as if the name of the food is synonymous with a positive idea. Click here to download the prayers said when eating these symbolic foods.
Some of the common Simanim are:

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR JUDGEMENT?
 
Make giving tzedakah part of your plan.
 

The Prayers on Rosh Hashanah

Much of the day of judgment is spent in prayer. We know that Rosh Hashana is when our destiny is being determined, and we want to put our best foot forward. And, the first day of Tishrei is first of the Ten Days of Repentance, which begins on Rosh Hashana and concludes on Yom Kippur. The ancients taught that during these ten days prayer and repentance are especially effective and much more readily accepted in heaven.
Yet, while prayer is one of the highlights of Rosh Hashana, the emphasis of our liturgy is not on ourselves. In fact, most of it centers around the greatness and majesty of G-d and our acceptance of His rule. If Rosh Hashana is part of the Ten Days of Repentence, why then is repentance not stressed on this day?
The answer is obvious. Sincere repentance starts with a firm belief that G-d is in control and that we are subjected to His will. If we leave Hashem out of the equation, we can never hope to repent. However, once we accept the rulership of G-d and yearn for all mankind to recognize this truth, we can then begin working on ourselves and hope to receive repentance from on high.

Shacharis

While similar in style to the prayers on Shabbos and Yom Tov throughout the year, Shacharis on Rosh Hashana has some significant differences. First, we insert a lot of piyutim, which are special liturgical poems that are not part of the original davening. Second, the tune used by the Chazzan is unique to the high holidays.

Hamelech

The Chazzan begins Shacharis by chanting “Hamelech” in a haunting tune. After singing the first stanza, he makes his way to the Amud and carries on. Upon concluding the Yishtabach prayer, but before beginning the Kadish prior to Barichu, the Ark is opened and Psalm 130 is read. Typically, this psalm is recited responsively, each verse read aloud first by the Chazzan and then repeated by the congregation.

Avinu Malekeinu

Upon concluding Chazaras Hashatz, the Ark is opened and Avinu Malekeinu – which is reserved for fast days and the Ten Days of Repentance – is recited. It includes multiple pleas to G-d for a good year, forgiveness, good health, redemption, sustenance, and a lot more. A few of the stanzas are slightly altered during the Ten Days of Repentance. For example, we say “Our Father, Our King, inscribe us in the book of life”, while on fast days during the year we read “Our Father, Our King, remember us for good life”. The difference is because we are being judged on Rosh Hashana and the Ten Days of Repentance. As such, we pray for an inscription in the book of the righteous.

The Torah readings

Blowing the Shofar

Mussaf

Tashlich

Special Additions for the Aseres Yemei Teshuva
Children’s Video about Rosh Hashanah
 
 

Rosh Hashanah in Belz

 
Take a journey to Belz with a collection of images from some of the most memorable moments of Rosh Hashanah with the Rebbe during these special days.
 
  • Erev Rosh Hashanah

    The day before Rosh Hashanah is the final day in the Jewish calendar year. In the early morning hours, thousands of people will head to the big shul to attend the lengthy Selichos which is followed by Shachris.
    The shofar will not be blown on Erev Rosh Hashanah to separate between the blowing of the shofar during the month of Elul and the shofar blowing of Rosh Hashanah. There is a custom to fast on Erev Rosh Hashanah and some make a siyum after davening to allow those who want to eat to eat.

    Slichos
  • Hatoras Nedorim

    The custom is to make Hatoras Nedarim (Annulment of Vows) on Erev Rosh Hashanah.
    This is done in groups with one person standing in front of three people while requesting release from his promises. The Rebbe will do Hatoras Nedarim after davening on Erev Rosh Hashanah with a group of 10 prominent dayanim (scholars) of the Belz community.

    Hatoras Nedorim
  • Welcoming the guests

    After davening and Hatoras Nedarim hundreds of guests who arrived from around the world to spend Rosh Hashanah with the Rebbe will file past the Rebbe to give him Shalom Aleichem. The Rebbe will receive each guest with a warm smile and a special brachah.

    Welcoming the guests
  • The Special Foods

    During the day of Erev Rosh Hashanah, many people will come to the Rebbe’s home and present him with the special food that is customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah. These specially prepared foods from around the world will be on the Rebbe’s table during the special Tish’en on Rosh Hashanah.

    The Special Foods
  • The Special Foods

    The foods that are brought to the Rebbe’s home include, specially produced honey, many different types of exotic fruits for Shehechyanu on second night of Rosh Hashanah, a cooked sheeps head, a certain type of fish that the previous Rebbes of Belz ate on Rosh Hashanah and many of the Simanim that are eaten on Rosh Hashanah.

    The Special Foods 1
  • The Fiery Tefillos

    The Rebbe will be the Chazzan for the Maariv of Rosh Hashanah night and Mussaf on both days of Rosh Hashanah. The other Balei Tefilah will have been chosen by the Rebbe, most of whom have been leading the davening in Belz for years. While davening takes many hours, and ends late in the afternoon, the feeling in the shul during the tefillos remains extremely uplifting throughout, and the passing of time is barely felt.
    (Please note: This picture was taken on a weekday during the month of Elul.)

    The Fiery Tefillos
  • Tekias Shofar

    The climax of Rosh Hashanah is the Shofar Blowing. After an hour-long break, the Rebbe will enter the Shul wearing a kittel and his face covered with a tallis. The Rebbe will ascend the bimah and gives a short drasha choked with tears, inspiring everyone to teshuva.
    Amid a feeling of holiness, the Rebbe will recite the blessings and the shofar blasts will pierce the silence of the huge shul, awakening the souls of the thousands of people gathered in the big shul.
    (Please note: This picture was taken on a weekday during the month of Elul.)

    Tekias Shofar
  • The Uplifting Tish’en

    Another highlight of Rosh Hashanah in Belz is the uplifting Tishen (seudas) which the Rebbe leads on both nights of Rosh Hashanah. At the Tish, special Rosh Hashanah melodies will be sung and the Rebbe will talk about the holiness of the day. All the symbolic Rosh Hashanah foods will be brought to table and shirayim (food from the Rebbe) will be passed out to the thousands of Chassidim standing on the multi-level parenches (bleachers).
    (Please note: This picture was taken on Motzei Rosh Hashanah.)

    The Uplifting Tish’en
  • Havdalah

    As Rosh Hashanah ends, the Rebbe will return to the big shul for Maariv. After Maariv, he will ascend the bimah and make Havdalah to mark the end of Rosh Hashanah. While Rosh Hashanah will have passed, the week of Aseres Yemei Teshuva will have just begun. Throughout the next week, Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah, will be on everyone’s minds.

    Havdalah
  • Returning Home

    After Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Chassidim who have traveled in from around the world will head back home to their families. While they will have only been with the Rebbe for a short period, they will be extremely uplifted and inspired from their special days with the Rebbe. They will return home strengthened and refreshed, ready to continue giving over that inspiration to their families and friends who have remained behind.

    Returning Home

From the Depths of the Heart

Once upon a time, a Jewish peasant boy came to the big town to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. He didn’t know how to pray. He couldn’t even read the Alef Beis. He just saw everyone traveling to town to pray at the big synagogue, so he thought, “If everybody is going, I should too!” He arrived at the town synagogue with his father and watched the congregants singing and crying together, swaying to and fro. He turned to his father and asked, “Father, what is this all about?”

His father replied, “The Holy One blessed be He sits enthroned in the heavens and we pray all year long to Him. But on Rosh Hashanah, we pray with special fervor because it is the day when Hashem judges the world and each person individually for the coming year.” The son responded, “Father, what should I do since I do not know how to pray?” His father replied condescendingly, “All you have to do is be quiet and listen to the other Jews praying. That’s enough for you.” “But Father, if I don’t know what these people are saying how will that affect G-d’s decision? How is being silent going to help?” His father became unnerved and blurted out, “Listen, I want you to be quiet so no one will know that you’re an ignorant peasant!”

The son stood still for a few minutes while his father and the rest of the congregation continued praying. Then the young boy spoke up loudly and said: “I am going to pray to G-d in the way I know best. I will whistle to G-d like I whistle to my flock of sheep.” The peasant boy began to whistle a tune that shepherds know. His father was enraged. “How dare my child embarrass me like this in front of the whole town”, thought the father. But the boy continued whistling with all his might. This was the tune that he knew, and this was the prayer that he would offer up to G-d.

Now, it so happened to be, that on this Rosh Hashanah all the heavenly gates were shut tight and no prayers could get through. The adversary accused and the defense was quiet. The judgment was severe for the coming year and prayers were being ignored. Suddenly the whistling of the pure sincere peasant boy ascended on high, and every heavenly gate burst open. And that is when the prayers of Israel were finally heard.