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Rosh Hashanah: understand what it is, the traditions, foods and curiosities of the Jewish New Year

“Shanah tovah u’metuka”. A good and sweet year. It is with this desire translated into the form of a greeting that Jews from all over the world must begin their Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, which will take place from sunset on 15 to September 17, 2023.

Unlike the Christian calendar, the months in Judaism are governed by the lunar calendar, which causes the days to be counted differently: they begin at dusk on one day and end at dusk on the next. For this reason, important dates for religion do not have exact days to happen every year as in the conventional calendar. In 2024, for example, the New Year will take place between the 2nd and 4th of October.

What is celebrated on Rosh Hashanah?

As the rabbi explains Pesach Kauffman the Jewish New Year celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the universe . In 2023, the year 5784 will be celebrated.

“Rosh Hashanah means the ‘head of the year’. A moment of renewal, in which we are very connected with God. It’s the time when everything that will happen next year is being decreed, whether in financial matters or in other areas of our lives. A moment of introspection, reflection and renewal, ”he emphasizes.

The traditions of Rosh Hashanah

Like other important dates for religion, the occasion is marked by a lot of celebration, typical food, traditions, joy, gratitude and prayer.

One of the most striking points for everyone is the touch of the Shofar, a wind instrument made from a ram’s horn. Played during moments of Rosh Hashanah he represents a call to repent of sins .

“This sound touches our hearts. On this day there is also a longer prayer, everyone goes to the synagogue and there is a festive family meal”, adds the rabbi.

Between the symbols and food gifts on practically all the tables of this celebration are the apple and the honey , which mean the wish for a good and sweet year. “We eat the apple and ask for God’s will to be done. We ask that everything works out in a sweet way, not bitter”, says Pessach.

Another item that carries a great symbology on this date is the head of a fish , which is usually placed on top of the family meal table. It represents the wish for the year to be the “head”, the best part of the animal, not the tail.

A challah the famous braided sweet bread eaten on Shabbat and other Jewish festivals, is given a circular version on this occasion, representing the cycle of life and the beginning of the new year.

To the pomegranates in turn, represent fertility and abundance. Dates and more sweet foods they are also sure presences at the tables. As for the main dishes, it is worth mentioning that each family follows its traditions coming from different regions.

If you go to a Jew’s house Ashkenazi of European origin, for example, will certainly find the Guefilte fish a fish cake made with carp.

Kneidele (small balls made of matzah served in a broth), vareniki (a baked pastry filled with mashed potatoes and onions), Beigale (a potato puff pastry), Goulash (a kind of stew made with cubes of meat, tomato sauce and wine) and Lekach (honey cake) also make up the traditional menu.

Already in the celebration of Sephardim the delicacies are of Iberian and Middle Eastern influences.

What to expect in Israel on this day?

Rosh Hashanah is deeply rooted in Israel’s cultural fabric. The Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall), a revered site in Jerusalem becomes a spiritual meeting point, attracting believers from all over the world.

Visitors can witness prayers and observe traditions, gaining insights into the region’s spiritual landscape. For Brazilian tourists, Rosh Hashanah offers a bridge between two faiths. Exploring Jewish heritage can lead to a deeper understanding of Christianity’s roots and shared values.

“Visitors can attend religious services at synagogues, engage in conversation with locals and share in traditional holiday meals. This intercultural experience provides the opportunity to foster interfaith dialogue and enrich personal spiritual journeys,” emphasizes the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Yom Kippuer

The holiest day of the year for Jews is not a feast, but a day of deep reflection.

“Apologizing” Day Yom Kippuer it happens ten days after Rosh Hashanah –this year, it will fall from sunset on September 24th. On the occasion, Jews practice a fast of more than 24 hours, in which the greatest intention is to reflect on all the evil and sins committed in the last year.

“It is a day of much prayer in which we show all our repentance. We spent the day at the synagogue reading a prayer book called the Machzor. That’s when our fate is sealed. Forgiveness is asked of the neighbor and of God. A day of introspection and a lot of focus. A day that we are closer to God”, emphasizes Rabbi Pesach.

At the end of the period, a festive meal, mainly with lots of meat and wine, is eaten in the family. It is worth mentioning that children under 13 years of age and people with some type of illness in which food is necessary are authorized not to fast.


In September 2023 there will also be another celebrated date for Jews. the jewish feast Sukkot will happen from September 29th to October 6th — or 15th day of the month of Tishrei. Known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, it commemorates the divine protection that the Jewish people had in their 40 years in the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

“It’s seven days of celebration. We build huts in open environments (whether in the backyards of houses or in spaces provided by synagogues) and cover them with branches and ornaments. Meals are taken inside them. It’s like a test of faith, showing that we are not afraid of rain or the sun and how much we trust in God”, explains the rabbi.

“It is a pilgrimage festival. In Israel, the wailing wall is crowded. Some fruits are taken as a thank you for the blessing of this land that God promised Abraham, with the main crops such as a branch of date palms, lemons and laurel. This September, the whole country is celebrating,” adds Yohai, an Israeli tour guide for over 30 years.

Source: CNN Brasil

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