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 5780.
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.
This year we are going to celebrate this beautiful tradition by eating pomegranates from the tree growing in our son’s garden in the hills of Samaria. Here is one of his prize fruit still hanging on the tree 🙂
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 9.1 million:
Israel’s population stands at 9,092,000 and is expected to reach 10 million by Rosh Hashanah 2024, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.
In figures published ahead of the Jewish new year which begins Sunday evening, the CBS said the country’s 6.744 million Jews make up 74.2 percent of the total population, and its 1.907 million Arabs represent 21%.
Other minority groups comprise 4.8 percent of the population with 441,000 residents.
Since Rosh Hashanah 2018, the population rose by 184,000, marking a 2.1% increase, a similar change to previous years. Israelis gave birth to 196,000 children in the past year, while 50,000 citizens died. Some 38,000 people moved to the country, of whom 35,000 were Jewish immigrants who received citizenship.
At its current pace, the Jewish State will have 15 million residents by its hundredth birthday in 2048 and 20 million by 2065, the report said.
Worldwide, there are now 14.8 million Jews, a slight increase from the 14.7 million tallied the year before, the Jewish Agency reported on Thursday.
There are 8.1 million Jews living outside Israel, with the largest population in the United States, which has 5.7 million Jews.
These numbers are staggering! Although the Jewish nation as a whole has not yet recovered its numbers from before the Shoah, the number of Jews living in Israel is probably more than at any time in our history!
With the turmoil all round us in the Middle East we have to give thanks to Hashem for all the miracles and blessings that He has bestowed upon us. However we still 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 his typically whimsical fashion:
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.