4 September 2018

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 2018

For those of our support workers supporting Jewish clients and for those of you who are Jewish yourself, you may have already been aware that the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are soon approaching…

Rosh Hashanah begins the evening of September 9th, 2018

(Hebrew: ראש השנה‎), (literally “head of the year”), is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) which occur in the autumn. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. It is described in the Torah as יום תרועה (Yom Teru’ah, a day of sounding [the Shofar]).[1] Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey.


Rosh Hashanah (literally ‘Head of the Year’) marks the first and second days of the Jewish New Year. The festival is also known as the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, the Day of Judgement and the Day of Remembrance. According to rabbinic tradition, the world was created on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, and in a number of the prayers God is proclaimed as the creator and king of the universe.

The New Year provides a unique opportunity for people to put aside time for personal growth and reflection. It’s a time for people to clarify what their priorities in life are, and a time for reflection on what has been achieved in the past year. It’s a time for some serious thought about life and a chance to ask questions about your actions throughout the year. Questions considered during Rosh Hashanah include:

  • What’s the most meaningful thing in my life?
  • Who in my life means the most to me? How often do I let them know this?
  • What are the most significant things I’ve achieved in the past year?
  • What do I hope to achieve next year and in my life generally?
A great deal of time is spent in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah. Services focus on God’s kingship. People will reflect on their actions over the past year and ask for forgiveness for their sins. The central feature of the Rosh Hashanah services is the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. The sound was heard on many important occasions in Biblical times.

The shofar at New Year warns the Jewish people to reflect on their deeds and ask forgiveness from God. The sound of the shofar starts a ten-day period known as Yamin Noraim (literally ‘Days of Awe’), which ends with the solemn festival of Yom Kippur. A hundred notes in all are blown on the shofar at three periods during the service

After the service on the first evening of the festival, a special meal is eaten, including apples or bread dipped in honey. A sweet carrot dish called tzimmes is also sometimes eaten.

What’s the significance of the special Rosh Hashanah foods?

The apples or bread eaten dipped in honey and the sweet carrot stew, are a symbol of the sweet New Year that people hope lies ahead. The Shabbat Hallah (or Challah) bread will be made in a circle instead of its usual plait, symbolising the circle of life and the year, as well as the hope that the New Year will roll around smoothly.


Yom Kippur begins in the evening of Tuesday 18th September, 2018

(Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎‎, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”).


Yom Kippur is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It means Day of Atonement and Jewish people fast for 25 hours. It’s a day to reflect on the past year and ask God’s forgiveness for any sins.

During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur everyone gets a chance to put things right with other people before asking God’s forgiveness. This period is called The Days of Repentance or Days of Awe. It’s a time when Jews can make up for the wrongs of the past year and make a firm commitment to not do the same bad thing or things again. Yom Kippur begins at sunset. Before this solemn occasion, some Orthodox Jewish people visit a mikveh (ritual bath) to prepare themselves to become more spiritual.

Everyone who is feasting eats a large meal before the fast begins. Seniors, children under thirteen and people who are ill or pregnant do not have to fast.

The special day of Yom Kippur is marked by Jewish people in a number of ways:

  • Many wear white as a symbol of purity
  • No food or drink is consumed for 25 hours
  • No make-up or perfume is worn
  • No sex
  • No bathing
  • No leather shoes
It is the only day in the year that there are five services in the synagogue, starting with Maariv (the evening service) at the beginning of the fast. This service starts with the Kol Nidre (literally ‘all the vows’) prayer. This prayer asks God to release the people from any vows they made and not kept during the past year. The day is spent in continuous prayer for forgiveness. Yom Kippur ends with Neilah (literally ‘the closing’ of the gates of heaven) service. After a day spent fasting and praying, a final plea is made to God for forgiveness. The single sound of the shofar marks the end of the holy day.

Breaking the Fast – Although many of SweetTree’s clients will not fast a number of their families will and therefore it may be useful for you to know what it is all about.

Hard as it may seem, a full day of fasting actually gives you something to look forward to afterwards. That is, breaking the fast with some great food.  Hear some suggestions on how some people will break their fast before the main post- Yom Kippur meal.

  1. Fill a glass with some pomegranate juice drink. There are now some good pomegranate juice drinks on the market so it is easy to help someone break the fast in this way. The pomegranate is a fantastic fruit that is good for your heart and blood circulation.
  2. Have some honey cake and a cup of tea. We’re still in the New Year, and breaking your fast with a slab of honey cake is a nice to way to do it. Ask your client if they have a favourite recipe for honey cake, some families have a recipe that has been passed from generation to generation. It would be a shame not to enjoy something that so much love has gone into creating.  If your client does not have a preferred recipe, or you wish to surprise them, we have included a few recipes below that you might like to try.
  3. Dates are a very traditional way to break the fast. Full of flavour and energy. The best dates are from and Israel, Iran, Syria or Egypt.  The Middle Easter dates are among the best in the world.  Marks and Spencer sell some fabulous dates.

Succot (Tabernacles)

This festival begins five days after the end of Yom Kippur and commemorates the booths the Israelites constructed in the wilderness and lived in after their exodus from Egypt. During the eight-day festival, Jews are supposed to live in a similar booth known as a Succah (dwelling) – the walls are made of wood and the ceiling of greenery to leave the stars visible. In countries such as Israel where the climate permits, many people sleep in the Succah, but elsewhere it is used mainly for meals only.

In synagogue, each congregant says a blessing over four different species of plants – a palm branch (lulav), citron (esrog), myrtle branch and willow twig – which are representative of the four different types of Jewish person.

The middle four days of the festival are regular working days – although the fourth of these, Hoshana Rabba (Save Us), is treated as one final chance to purge the soul of sins committed in the previous year. The eighth day of the festival is called The Eighth Day Of Solemn Assembly (Shemini Atzeret), when a prayer for rain is said during the synagogue service.

Simchat Torah (Rejoicing Of the Law)

Following immediately on from Succot is Simchat Torah, which celebrates the end of the reading of the Torah, in synagogue – and the fact that it can now be read from the beginning again. This is one of the happiest festivals in the Jewish calendar – it is celebrated by making seven circuits of the synagogue which are punctuated with dancing and singing of traditional Hebrew songs. Children are given flags to hold on the circuits, and many synagogues hold parties after the service.

SweetTree is grateful to the BBC and for the above text

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