Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight, and lasts for 2 days, until sundown on Tuesday night. The Jewish year follows the lunar calendar, and the number counts the number of years since Creation. This year we will mark the beginning of 5779.
To quote from previous Rosh Hashana posts, Rosh Hashana is not marked by great parties and merry-making for the Jewish New Year is also known as the Day of Judgement, the day when all humans are held accountable before Heaven for their good deeds and bad, and their fate for the coming year is decided. A good part of the two days of the festival is spent in emotional and uplifting prayers in the synagogue where we acclaim G-d as the King of Israel and as King of the whole universe, and where we ask Him to write us in the Book of Life, which remains open until Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 10 days time, giving us time to repent and atone for our sins.
The holiday is marked with the blowing of the Shofar (the ram’s horn), which is meant to literally sound an alarm to wake us up from our bad ways and return us to the righteous path.
Here’s a short clip to give you an idea of what the Shofar sounds like. In the synagogue it will be sounded altogether 100 times in two sets of 30 and 4 sets of 10.
We also eat sweet foods to symbolise our wish for a sweet New Year. A classic staple at the Rosh Hashana table is the apple, which is round, symbolising the cycle of the year, dipped in honey for a sweet new year.
Even our Challahs are baked in a round shape to symbolise the circle of life and the circle of the year. They are often extra-sweet and have raisins inside for added sweetness. Here are my very own challot freshly baked out of the oven 🙂
On the second night of Rosh Hashana it is traditional to eat a fruit from the new season. The most popular fruit is the pomegranate, because of the beauty of its shape, because it is one of the 7 species of produce native to the Land of Israel, and because it is traditionally believed that it has 613 seeds, the same as the number of mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew is commanded to keep.
Every Rosh Hashana, the Israeli Bureau of Statistics issues the latest population figures, and this year, as in every previous year, we are delighted to learn that our population has grown, now hitting 8.9 million: – and we are a happy bunch!
Israel has 8.9 million residents, 89% of whom claim to be happy with their lives.
These numbers include approximately 6.6 million Jews (74.4%), 1.8 million Arabs (20.9%) and a half million (4.7%) belonging to other minority groups.
This past year has proven to be one of new beginnings and development in the small Middle Eastern country. Throughout this past year alone, 25,000 new olim (immigrants) moved to Israel and 175,000 babies were born here.
The State of Israel contains 2.51 million households. 52,809 couples got married throughout this year, while 14,819 separated.
The start-up nation is not shy about its high-ranking education systems, especially with the recent report in which both the Technion University in Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were ranked in the top 100 universities in the world.
Altogether throughout the country, there are 63 institutions of higher education with 313,000 students.
Considering the volatile and dangerous region in which we live, this is fantastic news on all levels – the immigration rate, the birth rate, and the level of happiness. It shows that we are on the right path, that Hashem is with us, and that we are doing something right after all! Long may this continue!
And yet with the turmoil all round us in the Middle East we shall have to pray with special fervour to Hashem that He grant us a year of tranquillity and peace, and that He grant our leaders and the leaders of the free world the wisdom and the courage to act wisely and for the good of all of us.
Here is our favourite diplomat, Ambassador David Friedman, wishing us all a Shana Tova in a whimsical fashion:
In this spirit I bring you this beautiful video by the Hallel Shomron Women’s Choir singing Ana Be’Koach, written by Ovadia Hamama. The words are said at the beginning of our prayers as we beseech G-d to listen to our prayers:
If I have offended anyone during this past year I ask forgiveness of them and sincerely apologize.
May I wish all my family, friends, and readers worldwide שנה טובה ומתוקה – Shana Tova Umetuka. A Happy and Sweet New Year. May we all be blessed with a year of good health, joy, prosperity and peace. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה
Let the current year and its curses be over, let the new year and its blessings begin.
לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy new year.