Rosh Hashanah 101: What you should know about the Jewish New Year

(RNS) What is Rosh Hashanah?

The Jewish New Year, which usually falls in September. “Rosh” means “head” and “shana” means “year” so “head of the year.” This year, it begins at sunset on Sunday (Sept. 16) and ends at sundown Sept. 18.

Rosh Hashanah ushers in the High Holy Days, a 10-day period of reflection that ends with the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement.”

The phrase “Rosh Hashanah” does not appear in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the new year is called “Yom Teruah,” the “day of the sounding of the shofar.”
 
 

What is a shofar and why is it blown on Rosh Hashanah?

A shofar is a horn, often from a ram. In the Torah, shofar blowing announces festivals and holy days.

The shofar is associated particularly with Rosh Hashanah, when it is sounded 100 times, according to one tradition. Jews are not required to blow the shofar, but to hear it.

 

What are the three sounds of the shofar?

Tekiah: a single long note

Shevarim: three medium notes in succession

Teruah: nine staccato notes

In rabbinic teaching, each sound evokes different aspects of the soul-searching that is expected during the High Holy Days. Shevarim, for example, sounds like crying. Teruah is rousing, a call for the soul to awake.