What Is Rosh Hashanah? Rabbi Looks Back on His Favorite Holiday Traditions

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What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rabbi Menachem Creditor of the UJA-Federation of New York explains what the fall celebration is all about and looks back on some of his favorite memories from the Jewish holiday.

“Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite days of the whole year,” Creditor told InsideEdition.com. “It’s a holiday on the Jewish calendar that usually begins around the fall months. It’s full of traditions and full of family meals and spending time together in the community.”

As rhe Jewish New Year, the holiday is considered extra special because, unlike other celebrations like the Sabbath or Passover, Rosh Hashanah has no origin story.

“It literally means ‘Rosh,’ the head, ‘Hashanah,’ of the year and it marks the birth of the universe, not the Jewish people and not a specific story,” he explained. “It comes to tell us that the world is reborn each year and so it’s a celebration of the world itself. Not me, not us, but everything.”  

Rosh Hashanah is one that appears in the Jewish calendar as a uniquely Jewish holiday, but invites community members of all religions and creeds to celebrate.

“This is a moment where Jews and non-Jews can really come together,” he said. “It’s an invitation to come together as a community way beyond any one of our tribes.”

The holiday centers around one main tradition: the blowing of the Shofar, a ram’s horn that makes a punctuating noise ringing in a new beginning.

And, in addition to wishing each other “shanah tova,” meaning “may it be a good year,” one can wish others the extended version of the saying, “l'shanah tovah tikatevu ve tejatemu.”

“’May you be written and inscribed for a good year,'” he explained. “Because one of the metaphors on Rosh Hashanah is that God has a book of life and my biggest prayer for everybody, especially me I guess, is that I be written in for one more year of life.”

For Creditor, his favorite celebration as a child included dipping a piece of apple in honey and wishing each other a sweet year, even though he was allergic to apples.

“There’s this tradition of having different kinds of food and finding a symbolic meaning from any of them,” he recalled. “So I’ll just make one up. I’ll take a strawberry, dip it in chocolate and say, ‘May your year be rich, may it be fruitful, may you see the seeds of your work evident to you’ and you look at the people around you at the table and [say], ‘I wish you and you wish me a sweet, beautiful, peaceful year.’”

And, as a rabbi who’s duty it is to teach and continue tradition, he looks forward to fostering literacy in Jewish tradition in generations to come, and to wishing everyone a safe Rosh Hashanah.

“In the spirit of Rosh Hashanah, what I really wish everyone, both physically present and virtually here, a sense of safety in the world,” he concluded. “A sense of health and peace and that the people that you love and the people you don't know and the people you disagree with, can actually experience a world where there's less tumult, where we can actually stand together hopeful about the year to come.”

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