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Rosh Hashanah 2020 Begins This Weekend: 5 Things To Know

The Jewish New Year begins Sept. 18 at sundown and concludes at nightfall on Sept. 20. Here are five things to know about the holiday.

ACROSS AMERICA — For Jews around the world, the two-day holiday known as Rosh Hashanah begins Friday night at sundown and concludes at sundown Sunday.

Considered the beginning of the Jewish New Year and one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah is packed with special foods, traditions and mitzvahs, or commandments. One of the most important things to do on Rosh Hashanah is to hear the blowing of the shofar, or the ram's horn.

Here are five things to know about the holiday. Shanah Tovah!

1) What is Rosh Hashanah?

The words actually mean "head of the year" and are used to mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day period that culminates with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

The two-day period is also referred to as "The Days of Awe" and focuses on repentance and atonement.

In Judaism, Rosh Hashanah is considered the sixth day of "Creation," the day that Adam and Eve were made. Because of their creation, it's also considered the day the universe's potential was first recognized; therefore, it's also considered the birthday of the universe.

2) How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

Several ways. Most notably, Jews will spend a lot of time in a synagogue or temple praying, listening to the blowing of the shofar, and reflecting on the year gone by. Also, there is a traditional trip to a body of water where bread is thrown, symbolizing the casting of sins into the depths of the sea, as referenced in the Bible.

Other Rosh Hashanah observances include candle lighting in the evenings and desisting from creative work.

3) What's a shofar, and why is a ram's horn so important?

A shofar is a trumpet made from the horn of a kosher animal with the marrow removed. The central mitzvah or commandment of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the shofar being blown, often in a synagogue, and ideally as part of the prayer service.

Chabad.org says the Torah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the "day of the shofar blast." Since Rosh Hashanah is two days long, the shofar is blown during the daytime hours of both days, unless the first day falls on Shabbat, in which case the shofar is blown only on the second day.

The Torah doesn't specify why the blowing of the shofar is important on Rosh Hashanah; however, here are 10 reasons for this special mitzvah.

4) Are there special foods served during Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah feasts traditionally include round challah bread (studded with raisins) and apples dipped in honey, pomegranate, and other foods that symbolize wishes for a sweet year. Some feasts serve parts of the head of a fish or a ram, expressing the wish that "we be a head and not a tail."

It's traditional to stay away from nuts as well as vinegar-based and sharp foods in order to avoid "a bitter year."

5) Your local service may look different this year due to coronavirus.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many are preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah at home, socially distanced from extended family and friends. Chabad.org has some tips for those planning to spend Rosh Hashanah at home.

Hoping to attend a Rosh Hashanah service this year? Find a service near you.

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