Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tomorrow night (Sunday night), 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 5783.
Last year I bewailed the still-prevailing limitations of corona, despite the situation being so much better than the previous year when we could only attend outdoor minyanim because of the pandemic.
This year thank G-d we are pretty much back to normal despite once again being warned of yet another wave (is anyone counting what number?). At least we can now keep the air-conditioning on and the windows closed, and we’ll be able to enjoy the synagogue services in comfort.
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.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.
It has become a tradition that the Israeli Bureau of Statistics issues its annual population update at Rosh Hashanah. As the year 5783 dawns, Israel’s population numbers close to 10 million!
Israel’s population stands at 9,593,000 on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and grew by 187,000 over the past year, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) annual pre-Rosh Hashanah report on Israel’s population shows.
The population had grown by 1.8% over the past 12 months.
The average birthrate stood at three children per woman.
The total population is comprised of 6.983 million Jews (74%), 1.998 million Arabs – including Muslims and Christians (21%), and 473,000 residents of other minorities and religions (5%).
According to CBS projections, Israel’s population will pass the 10 million mark in 2024, the 15 million mark at the end of 2048 and the 20 million mark at 2065.
Some 177,000 Israeli couples welcomed a new child into the world this year. About 53,000 Israelis passed away, some 4,400 of them from the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Jewish State this year welcomed 59,000 Olim (immigrants) to the Holy Land, a decade record, primarily the result of immigration from Ukraine and the surrounding countries and the result of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Another Rosh Hashanah-related item brings us the Unexpected Story behind the Shofar:
Especially before Rosh Hashana, which the Bible calls “Yom Teruah,” the day the shofar is sounded.
Rosh Hashana is considered a day of divine judgment. In the synagogue, 100 blasts of this natural trumpet punctuate the long Rosh Hashana liturgy as a wakeup call to repentance and a fanfare for the King of Kings.
The designated shofar-blower needs a kosher horn, meaning it has no cracks or holes and no added materials such as glue or paint.
It must have the right shape and mouthpiece for the individual shofar-blower to be able to fulfill every congregant’s obligation to hear a specific series of sounds — the long tekiah, three short shevarim and nine staccato teruah blasts, finished off by an extra-long tekiah gedola.
Ribak, 52, and Zvi Barsheshet, 67, are among very few craftsmen producing shofars in Israel. Their families have been turning animal horns into sacred musical instruments since the 14th century.
The 15-generation business has an extraordinary story.
A Polish-Moroccan partnership
Ribak’s great-uncle immigrated to what was then Palestine from Poland in 1927 and set up shop in Tel Aviv, later handing the business down to Ribak’s father.
Barsheshet’s father emigrated from Morocco via France in 1947 aboard the Exodus ship that was seized by the British and the passengers diverted to Cyprus. After his release from internment, he established a shofar workshop in Haifa.
“My father and my partner’s father were competitors. Thirty years ago, they decided to work together,” Ribak tells ISRAEL21c.
Ribak initially took a different career path: He has a master’s degree in materials engineering from the Technion and worked at Motorola for 17 years.
“Nine years ago, when my father died, I quit high-tech and joined Zvi,” he says.
He shakes his head with a wry smile. “I don’t believe a normal person would go into this business. It’s very hard work.”
Read the whole thing for a fascinating explanation of how shofarot are sourced and created.
May Hashem hear our prayers and may we all merit to hear the blasts of the Shofar. May Hashem bring peace to Israel and to the rest of the world.
If I have offended anyone during this past year I ask forgiveness of them and sincerely apologize.
May Hashem grant us good health, peace, joy and prosperity, and may He inscribe us all 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.