(Hebrew: / Spelling: Rosh Hashana, Rosh Hashanah / Other Names: Yom Zicaron, Day of Remembrance, Yom Tiruah, Day of Trumpeting, Yoma Arichta / Definition: Jewish New Years day.)
New Years day on the Jewish Calendar. On Rosh Hashana all judged in front of Hashem and their fate is decided for the upcoming year.
Four Rosh Hashana's
Although the term Rosh Hashana is generally used to refers to the Jewish New Year's that falls out on the first of Tishrei the Mishanh list four different Rosh Hashana's or beginning days. On the first day of Tishray it is Rosh Hashanah for the Years, Shmitah, Yovlim, Planting and Vegetables.
Years - It is the first day of the Jewish Calender and is used for dating documents. Additionally the human race is judged on this Rosh Hashana for the upcoming year.
Shmitos and Yovlim - Once Rosh Hashana comes in it becomes forbidden to plow the land Mdioraysa on every seventh and fiftieth year of the Shmitah cycle.
Planting - In reference to the three years a tree needs to get out of its Urlah status, Rosh Hashana is considered the starting point. Even if a tree was planted 45 days earlier during the month of Av, when Rosh Hashanah comes around it is already considered the second year.
Vegetables - It is forbidden to give Masser from vegetables that grew in one year from vegetables that grew in a previous or later year. Rosh Hashanah is the determining point that establishes the year for vegetable Masser. Therefore one would not be able to give Masser from vegetables that were harvested on Erev Rosh Hashana from vegetables that were harvested the day after Rosh Hashanah.
Day of Judgment
Rosh Hashana is a day of Remembrance in front of Hashem. On this day He remembers all creations and judges them; who will live, who will die, who will become rich and who will become poor etc. Hashem looks over the hearts of all creations all in one glance but at the same time perceives each creation individually. Nothing is forgotten before Hashem, any action that a person does is recorded.
Aside from individuals, nations are also judged as a whole on Rosh Hashanah; which land will have prosperity, which land will have famine, which land will have war and which land will have peace.
The Three Books
On Rosh Hashana, three books are opened in the heavenly court. Completely Righteous people are written in the Book of Life. Completely Evil are sealed for death. Everyone else in between have their final judgment delayed until Yom Kippor so they have a longer chance to repent.
Each Rosh Hashanah the income of each individual is established for the upcoming year. An exception of this rule are the expenses used for Shabbos, Yom Tov and teaching your children Torah. Regardless of the income a person was given on Rosh Hashanah, he will be paid back for the money spent on the above expenses.
Two Day Yom Tov
Rosh Hashana is the only holiday that is observed for two days, even in Eretz Yisroel. Unlike the other two day holidays in Diaspora, these two days are considered one joint holiday and are called 'Yoma Arichta' (a long day).
Two Day Rosh Hashanah in Eretz Yisroel
Prior to the establishment of a set Jewish calendar, each Rosh Chodesh was inaugurated at the sighting of the new moon. Each month there is a frame of two days during which exists a possibility for the birth of the new moon to appear. When the new moon was sighted, witnesses would travel to the Sanhedrin, testify and Rosh Chodesh would be announced.
Once Rosh Chodesh was announced the exact date for the holidays occurring in that month could be established. In Diaspira they were not always notified about the establishment of Rosh Chodesh in time for the holidays. Therefore they would observe every holiday for the entire two day window where it had a possibility of falling out, due to uncertainty. In Eretz Yisroel this was never a problem since they would always know when Rosh Chodesh fell out before the holidays came around. Rosh Hashanah was the exception, since it itself falls out on Rosh Chodesh and they were uncertain of when the witnesses would arrive. Due to this uncertainty they would observe Rosh Hashana for two days, unless the witnesses ended up coming on the first day. When the official set Jewish calendar was established, the two day Rosh Hashanah was continued.
There were years when the witnesses of the full moon would not arrive until the second day, which meant the first day was retroactively a regular mundane day. People were forced to observe the first day of Rosh Hashana only out of a possibility that it might retroactively become holy. During years when the witness arrived on the second day, people would feel as if they had wasted their religious efforts for no reason observing the first day. This led to a great laxity in the observances of the first possible day of Rosh Hashana.
When the Sages saw it was getting out of hand they issued a decree that from that point on, Rosh Hashanah would become a full two day holiday regardless of whether the witnesses would arrive on the first or second day. In order to strengthen their decree, they made it even stronger then a regular two day Diaspora holiday. Instead of considering the two days of Rosh Hashanah as two separate adjacent holidays, they made it into one long continuous holiday. This is referred to as a 'Yoma Arichta', literally a 'long day'.
Although the Torah only calls for the observance of one day for the Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it also gives the power to the Sages to modify the Holidays according to their decisions. Once the Sages modify a holiday, all the spiritual elements involving the holiday re-conform in heaven to the new adjustments. A Yoma Arichta has a number of different Halachic ramifications.
Lo Adu Rosh
When the official Jewish calendar was established, the Sages designed it so Rosh Hashana could never start on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. This rule is referred to as 'Lo Adu Rosh' meaning, Rosh Hashanh can never start on ADU (Alef, Daled, Vav) the first, fourth and sixth day of the week.
If Rosh Hashanah were to start on a Sunday, it would cause Hoshana Raba to fall out on a Shabbos. To prevent the nullification of the Mitzva of Hashanas due to the Shabbos, this day was ruled out.
No Wednesdays or Fridays
By ruling out Wednesday and Friday, the Sages prevented Yom Kippor and Shabbos from falling out adjacent to each other. Since Yom Kippor has the same stringencies as Shabbos regarding moving dead bodies, if a person were to pass away, his body would remain untouched for a two day period during which it would start to decompose, disgracing the dead.
Rosh Hashana Services
Although Rosh Hashana is considered a holiday, the Hallel is not recited. Due to the tremendous awe and trepidation of this day when people are judged for life and death, it is not appropriate to sing the Hallel.
On the second day of Rosh Hashana the parsha of Akedas Yitzchok is read.
Shofar is blown to remind Hashem of the Akedas Yitzchock. A shofar is a horn of a ram and it was a ram that was accepted as a sacrifice equal to Yitzchock in the end.
When the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashana, it sweetens the Judgments. Figuratively, when Hashem hears the Shofor blown, He stands up from the Throne of Judgment and sits on the Throne of Mercy. This is alluded to in the two sides of the Shofar.
Shofar (שופר) comes from the word 'Shaper' (שפר) which means improve, since the blowing of the Shofar improves the situation and actions of its listeners.
- On Rosh Hashana the Prophet Elisha blessed the Woman of Shunamis with a son. From this blessing Chavakuk Hanavi was born. He therefore asked her if she wished that he speak to the 'King' for her. This was a reference to Hashem who judges all creation on Rosh Hashanah.
Uman Uman Rosh Hashanah
Each year between 20,000 - 40,000 Jews pilgrimage to the grave-site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine for Rosh Hashana. A large percent of the travelers are Breslov Hasidim but practically every Jewish group and location has members that join the trip. This tradition was started by Rabbi Nachman himself during his life time and it was continued by his main disciple, Rabbi Nason of Nimrov after he passed away. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain the Rosh Hashana Uman pilgrimage seems to be growing by the year.