15 Things Every Jew Wants You To Know On This Rosh Hashanah
As explained by a Jewish person who has spent most of his life answering these questions. (Also: Happy 5774, everyone!)
1. Hey, why are you dressed so nicely today?
Because it's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year!
2. Wait, in September? Is it always this date?
No, it changes every year. Jewish holidays are based around the lunar calendar, which is why everything starts at sundown.
3. The lunar calendar? Like, the moon?
Yes, the moon.
4. How do you keep track of the dates if it changes every year?
Google, mostly. Sometimes our bubbe calls us and lets us know that it's coming up.
5. OK, so what's Rosh Hashanah all about?
It's the start of the Jewish New Year. Happy 5774, btw!
6. Hang on, 5774?
Yes, according to the Jewish calendar, it's the year 5774. It's OK, just let us have this one.
7. And how long does Rosh Hashanah last?
It starts at sundown, and lasts two days. Some Jews celebrate for just one, though.
8. Is there any part of the lunar calendar that makes sense to ordinary people?
No, not really, let's just move on.
9. OK, more questions: Is this the holiday where Jews can't eat?
Nope, that's Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. It starts a week from Friday, and Jews observe by fasting for 24 hours. Together, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holidays.
10. So what happens on Rosh Hashanah?
Jews gather together to pray. On the High Holidays, Jews go through a series of services and prayers that culminate in asking God (and others we may have wronged) for forgiveness. Rosh Hashanah is where it all starts. It's also where Jews blow the shofar, which is a ram's horn. In olden days, it was used to call the members of the congregation to worship, but now it's just a part of the service.
11. Is your bubbe disappointed that you're not going to services with a nice Jewish girl this year?
Yes, very much so, thank you for reminding me.
12. Isn't there something with apples?
There is! Jews eat apples and honey today to celebrate a "sweet" new year. (It's OK, you can groan at that one too.)
13. And Jews celebrate Jan. 1 as New Year's too, right?
Yeah, we celebrate both. This is a perk.
14. Is there anything I should tell a Jewish person today?
Sure, you can wish them a "L'shanah tovah!" That basically translates to "Have a good year."