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Shana Tova!

By François van Deth (translation Gaby Laws)

Roch Hachana

(Drawing: Caroline GUILLOT)

This is how Jewish people address this time of year, their New Year. Indeed, the Hebrew year starts on the 1st of the month of Tishrei, which this year 5770 falls on September 18th at sunset.

Rosh Hashana

Some shofarot
Shofars
(Encyclopaedia Judaica)

Literally meaning "head of the year." The name of the festival which takes place on 1 and 2 Tishrei, that is to say, this year, from September 18 to September 20, evening to evening. This starts the 'High Holidays', which culminate on 10 Tishrei with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Indeed no New Year’s Eve party and no streamer for Rosh Hashana! but a thought about for the passing year. Rosh Hashana is also called "day of reckoning’, because according to the Talmud on this day, all mankind stand trial before G-d, who does not make his final verdict until the day of Yom Kippur. During these two days, the faithful express their desire to purify their sins. The sounding the shofar (ram's horn) is supposed to awaken the sleepers to give up their evil acts (sounding the shofar is forbidden on Shabbat, for this reason shofar will be sounded this year only on September 20th).

During the kiddush (blessing for bread and wine) which starts the family meals, the traditional braided bread (Challot) is replaced by sweet round buns (to represent the renewal and cycle of the years), which is dipped in honey. We also dip apple slices, while wishing that the coming year is "good and sweet."

Its not Rosh Hashana without a feast! It is customary to eat fish, a symbol of fertility, and to eat the head to be "the head and not the tail" no doubt keeping an eye on the name of the festival (Rosh = head), Autumn fruits, particularly pomegranates, which according to tradition, contain 613 seeds, as many as the number of commandments.

Yom kippur

The Day of Atonement is celebrated on 10 Tishrei which this year is from September 27 to September 28 evening to evening. This festival is usually called Yom Kippur or Hebrew yom ha-kippourim that is to say "day of atonement." This is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, the "Sabbath of Sabbaths." Jewish people have to acknowledge their sins to receive forgiveness.

Every male over thirteen years of age and all women over twelve years are required to fast for 25 hours, from sunset. As a sign of humility, it is customary to wear shoes that do not contain leather, keep washing to the minimum and to wear white garments.
The whole day is spent in synagogue, men wearing their Talit (prayer shawl), in an uninterrupted prayer.

At the end of Yom Kippur, the verdict (almost) definitive falls, assuming that G-d will have greatly attenuated his decision taking into account the sincerity of repentance that was shown throughout this period and especially during the day of Yom Kippur.

We should not consider Yom Kippur to be a sad day. This is a festive time of repentance and purification. Fasting enables us to focus on prayer, without being disturbed by bodily necessities. Participation in Yom Kippur, in particular in Neïla which closes the day is widely observed by Jews, including those who have abandoned the greater part of other traditions and practices of Judaism.