Rosh Hashanah literally means “the head of the year.” The traditional Hebrew name for this special holiday is Yom Teruah literally meaning “day of shouting or shocking”. It’s the first of all the Jewish High Holidays specified by the Biblical laws that usually occur during the fall of the Northern Hemisphere in late autumn.
The observance of this high holiday by Jews is a way to remember their relationship with God, and also the coming of the Messiah (Yeshua) at the end of days. This important holiday commemorates the creation of both humans and the world around them in the presence of God. This is also a significant time to commemorate the past year’s achievements in Israel, as well as celebrate the joy of having one more year with the Jewish People.
Traditionally, the festivities of Rosh Hashanah are somewhat subdued. While many Jews take to their homes and light candles on various occasions, the celebratory atmosphere of this day is reserved to the synagogue where family members gather and pray for the coming of the Messiah. It is also a time to remember the past year and all of its accomplishments, and also a time to hope for a bright future in the coming year.
The tradition of celebrating the day of Rosh Hashanah in a synagogue is not actually a Biblical practice; however, in general, the celebration of this day is seen as a reminder of the birth of G-d, as well as an acknowledgment that the coming of this historical event marks the end of years of struggle and hardship, and that the coming year will be one of joy and peace. There is also a strong ritualistic element of this day in some traditions; for example, a candle light is placed on the temple, and family members sing a song (often a Hallel), recite prayers, and then break the fast together in their homes. There are even some customs regarding the washing and fasting that must be observed for this special day.
One of the most interesting aspects of celebrating Rosh Hashanah is the practice of purchasing gifts for the coming of the Messiah. These gifts may be figurines, jewelry, clothing, or even small gifts to be given to family members who were not able to join in the festivities in person. As well as giving gifts, there are also practices in which a portion of the holiday can be spent on the day itself, in order to have the recipient feel connected to the celebration, and to make the coming of the Messiah that much more real to the people who are celebrating it.
When someone is asked what is the best part of celebrating this holiday, the response is almost always “connecting to God.” Many people choose to enjoy their time together on this special holiday with their families, friends, and spiritual community, and are happy to spend the extra time doing so.