You Can Say Happy Rosh Hashanah but Not Happy Yom Kippur

At this time last year, a candidate running for office asked me what Rosh Hashanah is. My first thought was to use Google and figure it out, but with Florida having the third-largest Jewish population in America, I thought maybe it’s time to give people a simple explanation of what these holidays, which seem shrouded in mystery, are actually about. Here’s what you need to know about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new near, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

On Rosh Hashanah, apples and honey represent sweetness for the new year. The ram’s horn is a holy symbol known as a shofar.

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Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of the High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar. It is an important, fun, uplifting holiday celebrated by Jewish communities worldwide. So, lesson one is that it’s okay to say “Happy Roshanah.” Your Jewish friends will love it. 

Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year” in Hebrew, is a time for introspection, reflection, and renewal. It usually falls in September or early October, following the Hebrew calendar. The holiday spans two days and is filled with unique customs, prayers, and traditions.

During Rosh Hashanah, Jewish individuals attend synagogue services, recite prayers, and listen to the sound of the shofar, a ram’s horn, a central holiday symbol. It is also customary to eat festive meals, including symbolic foods like apples dipped in honey or a honey cake to signify a sweet New Year and round challah bread to represent the cyclical nature of time. If you’ve never eaten challah before, you should try it. It’s a taste thrill, particularly when it’s used for French toast. 

Challah is delicious bread. Use it to make French toast that is out of this world.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and is often called the Day of Atonement. It typically falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah. During Yom Kippur, people engage in fasting, prayer, and repentance. It is a time for reflection, seeking forgiveness from God and others, and making amends for wrongdoings. The day is observed with intense solemnity and is seen as an opportunity for spiritual purification and renewal. After a long day of fasting, friends and family get together to break the fast. Yom Kippur concludes the High Holy Days, a day of atonement, forgiveness, and spiritual transformation.

Rosh Hashanah is a celebration. Yom Kippur is more solemn and holy. But this time of year is when Jewish people self-examine and strive to make amends. This is seen as an opportunity to start fresh, set new goals, and make positive changes in the year ahead. We can all benefit from time for self-reflection. It’s like spring cleaning for the soul. 

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There’s much more to these holidays, but for those who aren’t Jewish or religious, this is your simple guide to understanding two of the most significant Jewish holidays. If you see something on social media that says Shana Tova, it just means good year, and with that, I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and to those who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, Shana Tova. 

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