Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Holiest Day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah is the New Year and is one of three planned in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is the Jewish festival that celebrates the Day of Atonement. In the Torah, it is called Yom HaKippurim or the Day of scapegoats. It is one of the so-called Yamim Noraim. The Yamim Noraim range from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, which are respectively the first two days and the last day of the ten days of repentance.

In the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur begins at dusk of the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishri. It falls around September and October of the Gregorian calendar and continues until the early stars of the next night. It can then last for 25-26 hours.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of repentance. It is considered the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year. The central theme is atonement of sins and reconciliation. It is forbidden to eat, drink, wash, wear makeup, wear leather shoes and have sex. Fasting includes total abstinence from food and drink. Fasting begins a few moments before sundown called Tosefet Yom Kippur.

The addition of a small part of the day before the fasting is prescribed by the Halakha. It ends after next sunset, before the appearance of the first stars. The service begins with a prayer of Kol Nidre that must be recited before sunset.

Yom Kippur completes the penitential period of ten days that begin with the New Year of Rosh Hashanah.


The morning prayer is preceded by litanies and some requests for forgiveness called Selichot. Contrary to popular belief, Yom Kippur is not a sad day. Many Jews have the custom to wear only white clothes, to symbolize the purity of their souls.

For evening prayers people wear a Tallit, a rectangular prayer shawl. Neilah is a special service held only on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur ends with the sounding of the shofar, which concludes the celebration. The day is always observed as a holiday, both inside and outside the borders of Israel.

The service in the synagogue begins on the Christmas Eve with the Kol Nidre. The traditional melodies with their plaintive tones and the Ashkenazi tradition give expression to individual anguish in the face of uncertainty of the fate and the lament of people for the lost glories.

The Mishnah indicates the manner to calculate the progression of years and also the calculation of sabbatical and jubilee. The rabbinic literature and the liturgy describe Rosh Hashanah as the Judgement Day or Yom ha-Din and the Day of Remembrance or Yom Ha-Zikaron.

The festival lasts for two days in Israel, but it's a recent tradition. The scriptures bear the precept observance of one day. This is why some streams of Judaism, including the Karaites, only celebrate the first day. The Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, however, celebrate on both days.

Rosh Hashanah falls 162 days after the first day of Pesach. In the Gregorian calendar, it cannot fall before September 5. Curiously, because of the difference between the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar, from 2089 to the latter, Rosh Hashanah cannot fall on September 6. It cannot fall later than 5 October.

Rosh Hashanah can never fall on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Based on the traditional date of the foundation of the world, it falls on the first day of Tishri. According to the Gregorian calendar, it is in September or in early October. One of the characteristics of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar.

Depending on the tradition of the various currents, the recitation of Selichot begins at different times, from 30 to 10 days prior to Rosh Hashanah festivities. These poems are so important that on the day of the festivities, some of these, called Piyyut are inserted within the normal liturgy. The afternoon before the start of the holiday is used to make the Tashlikh.

The first evening dinner of Rosh Hashanah is called the Seder of Rosh Hashanah. During this dinner, people wish each other a sweet and prosperous year, together with the recitation of small prayers. They use something sweet like the typical apple dipped in honey and pomegranate that gives the idea of multiplicity.

Among the different dishes that are served during this dinner, there is a constant presence of some part of an animal. A form of bread (Challa) is usually brought to the table. It symbolizes the circularity of the year. In the second meal of the evening,, more variety of fruits are served so as to be included in the Shehecheyanu blessing. It is the blessing that is recited the first time people taste something in the year.

The first reference to the festival is probably of Ezekiel. In Leviticus, it is said that the Jubilee, which begins on the same day of Rosh Hashanah, was greeted with the sound of trumpets. According to the book of Ezekiel, specific sacrifices were offered in both the first day of the first month (Nisan) and the first day of the seventh month (Tishri).



The first day of the seventh month is referred to as the day of the sound of trumpets. No work was to be performed, and special sacrifices were to be offered. It is still not expressly called New Year, but it was already noted as such by the Jews of the time. This date marks the creation of Adam.

Tashlikh is a practice of ancient Judaism. It is usually performed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. It can be observed up to Hoshana Rabbah. The sins of the previous year are symbolically thrown away by reciting a section from Micah. It alludes to the symbolic liberation from sins by throwing them into a great natural body of water like a river, lake, sea or ocean, then throwing a rock or stone in the water itself.

The name Tashlikh and the practice itself is derived from the step of Bible Micah. The majority of Jewish sources trace the tradition of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Levi Moelin in his work Sefer Maharil. Flavius Josephus refers to the decree of Halicarnassus that allows Jews to practice their rites according to Jewish law and maintain their places of worship near the sea, according to the customs of their fathers.

The Zohar is one of the most important books of Jewish mysticism. It states that whatever falls into the deep like the water is lost forever and serves as the scapegoat for the ablution of sins. Some argue that this passage refers to Tashlikh.

Midrash tells on the rabbinical ligation in which Satan throws himself across the path of Abraham in the form of a deep river that he overcame. Moelin, however, forbids the practice of throwing pieces of bread into the river, especially in the daytime. This shows that in its time Tashlikh had a duly observed circulation, even when the first day of Rosh Hashanah happened in Shabbat. Although later the ceremony was postponed to the second day.
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