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5 elements of Rosh HaShanah, 5784

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin ([email protected])

1. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days. This year it begins on Friday evening as Shabbat sets in, and ends on Sunday night, a little after 7:20 pm Israel time.

2. Candle lighting for Rosh HaShanah evening is special. Two blessings are recited: 'Lehadlik ner shel Shabbat ve'Yom Hazikaron' -- to kindle the lights of Shabbat and the Day of Remembrance, and 'Shehecheyanu vekiyamanu vehigianu la'zman hazeh' -- who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this occasion.

3. On Friday night there is a festive meal with Kiddush. Many also have the custom of consuming "Simanim," symbolic foods which represent human characteristics. These include apple dipped in honey, pomegranate seeds and other fruits and vegetables whose consumption is thought to bring sweetness, abundance, and blessing into our lives. A rabbi known as the Chofetz Chaim used to say that the Siman for the sweetest and most successful year is simply to be good and sweet ourselves, to begin the year with joy, and not with stress.

4. The central mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the blowing of the shofar. Since the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat (and the shofar cannot be blown on Shabbat), the blowing of the shofar will be heard this year on the second day (Sunday) only, generally in the morning. Throughout Israel, there is an annual "shofar campaign" in Chabad houses but not only there. The shofar is taken out to parks, streets, and other public places to give everyone a chance to hear it blown.

5. There are many other Rosh Hashanah halachot (Torah laws), including lighting candles for the second day, a special Kiddush between Shabbat and the second day, and others, as well as a multitude of customs. It is said that these 48 hours -- full of meaningful activity and prayer -- exert a positive influence on the rest of the year. We determine what the rosh or "head" of the year will look like, and then the rest of the year will follow suit.

Shabbat shalom and thank you to all those who share, as volunteers, in the translation and distribution of the Daily Portion, and to you, the readers, for your readership and involvement in this enterprise throughout the year.

Shana tova to everyone, may you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.


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