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A Different Kind of New Year
by Tzivia MacLeod | September 17, 2020 | Israel

If "New Year" inspires images of fireworks, champagne, and broken resolutions, think again. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, is a different kind of new year with a spiritual twist, surrounded by loved ones on one of the holiest days of the year.
Here are a few fun facts about this important festival.

1. Heading into the year.

The words "Rosh Hashana" actually mean "head of the year." Just as the head leads the way, Jews believe that the way they spend Rosh Hashana will "lead" them throughout the year. Many try to spend time studying Torah, praying, or spending time with family.

2. Shofar, so good.

Rosh Hashana has manysymbols, including honey and pomegranates, whose plentiful seeds represent a bounteous life. But the most important symbol is the shofar, or ram's horn. This is a reminder of the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place of his son Isaac and drives home the concept of new beginnings. The shofar is a spiritual "alarm clock," awakening the soul to its higher purpose.

3. All about awe.

The ten days starting with Rosh Hashana are known as the Days of Awe, wrapping up with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. While this is a solemn time, it's also a happy time, representing a new beginning. Prayers are sung together and every neighborhood in Israel rings out with beloved traditional melodies.

4. Higher resolution.

Rosh Hashana is all about resolutions, but not the kind you make January 1st and then fail to live up to the rest of the year. Because it's believed that every single creature passes before God on Rosh Hashana, it's an ideal time to assess where you are in life and whether you're living up to your potential.

5. Feeling crumby.

Rather than napping away the afternoon, many Jews find a natural body of water where they can symbolically cast out their sins, based on the Biblical passage: "You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18). Some take the symbolism to the next level by tossing in bits of bread or crumbs, making this a fun day for the fish as well!

The traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah is "may you be written and inscribed for a good and sweet year." That's because it's believed God determines the fate of every creature during the Days of Awe. But lots of people just say "Happy New Year!" Because there's no better way to put it when you're sitting down to a table loaded with honey cake and other sweet and savory treats.

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