Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish celebration typically lasting two days starting on the evening of September 9 and lasting until sundown of September 11. In some Jewish cultures Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Days of Atonement, a ten-day period of introspection and repentance that ends with Yom Kippur, the second of Judaism’s High Holy Days, on September 19.
There are two approaches to Rosh Hashanah, one theological and the other secular.
The theological approach is the celebration of the creation of Adam and Eve as taken from Genesis of the Old Testament. With the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, God has entered humanity into His world.
The secular approach centers on the beginning of the agricultural year and the planting of crops to take advantage of the winter rains.
During Rosh Hashanah and the ten-day period leading to Yum Kippur there are various celebratory events in the temples and households. These include reciting religious poems, special prayers and the blowing of the 100 notes on the Shofar.
Symbolic foods such as the head of a fish (so that we are the head and not the tail) are eaten along with dates, pomegranates, black-eyed peas, pumpkin filled pastries, leeks, and whole fish. Most if not all activities, including food have a symbolism for the Jewish community such as to be fruitful, as in the pomegranate with its many seeds.
According to the Mishnah on Rosh Hashanah, the heavenly books are opened and the fates of the righteous, the wicked and the intermediate people are determined.
The names of the righteous are immediately written into the book of life and they are sealed so that they will live forever within God’s kingdom.
The names of the wicked are blotted out in the book and are destined for damnation forever.
The intermediate people are allowed ten days to think over their lives and make repentance. They are then elected to join the list of the righteous before Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment.
Some traditions hold that God sits on his throne. As the books are opened, people pass before him and an accounting is taken of their deeds. This is very reminiscent of early Christianity. A favorite scene depicted on the walls of churches showed Jesus seated while the graves open and the people emerge to be judged and taken away to heaven or hell.
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