Some Basic Information About These Holy Days
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are several of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana takes place on the first two days of the year, and Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth day of Tishrei, the first month of the year. Every person and creature's actions, merits and sins, are reviewed and weighed in the Heavenly court. On Rosh Hashana, the verdicts are written, and on Yom Kippur, our fates are sealed for the year. How many will pass away, how many will be born, who will live and who will die, who by fire, who by plague, who by wild animal...
Apples and Honey Photo Credit: slgckgc on Flickr
On Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to wear leather shoes. People generally wear other footwear, that is not made of leather, such as crocs or slippers.
On Rosh Hashana, people generally wear nice shoes.
On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we try to wear white or light-colored clothing. We avoid wearing gold and silver jewelry, because we want to stay away from reminders of the Sin of the Golden Calf. Many people do wear dark-colored clothing, however it is better to wear white, if you have.
The white clothing symbolizes purity and lack of blemish. We pray that even if our sins are red as scarlet, they should be whitened like snow.
A white cloth Kittel, similar to a robe, is traditionally worn by men on Yom Kippur. Men try to wear it throughout Yom Kippur, especially during prayers. It is usually worn over a white, collared, button-down shirt and dark pants. A belt is tied around the waist, to separate the upper half of the body from the lower half. The kittel can have special embroidery or designs. Men often purchase or receive a kittel as a gift prior to their wedding. It is sometimes worn at the wedding, which is considered a day like Yom Kippur for the bride and groom. Married men typically wear a white kittel twice a year- on Yom Kippur and on Pesach, the holiday of Passover.
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On Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to eat or drink. The exception is for elderly, very young children, and certain people that are ill. However, most people are prohibited from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur. For those that are permitted to eat or drink, there may be specific guidelines regarding how much and how often to eat and drink- a sick person should contact their local Orthodox Rabbi for details.
On Rosh Hashanah, there are festive meals eaten each day and each evening. The family sits around the table, and the meal is started with wine/grape juice, and challah. For Rosh Hashana until after Sukkos, the Challah eaten is specially made differently than all year round. Typically, on Shabbos, we eat Challah that is prepared in a long braid. However, for the new year, the challah is made in a round shape, to symbolize the cycle of life. The challah is often made with sweet additions, such as raisins in the dough. The challah is dipped in honey, instead of, or in addition to, dipping it into salt, which is usually done during the rest of the year.
We then eat special foods at the Rosh Hashanah meal, which symbolize our hopes for the new year. Some of these special Rosh Hashana "Simanim" are Apples Dipped in Honey, Figs, Dates, Pomegranate with the seeds, the head of a fish or lamb, leek, beets, cabbage, and a new fruit that we have not yet eaten that year.
Prior to eating each of these "Simanim", we recite a prayer specific to that dish.
For the apples in honey, we say, (loosely translated), "May it be Your will to renew upon us a year that is good and sweet". The sweetness is symbolized by the apple in the honey.
For more on the symbolic foods and the prayers on each of them, see this article: http://www.kashrut.com/articles/simanim/
Please note: if you are an observant Jew, refer to this article before the holiday. It is forbidden to use the computer on the actual holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur, we keep all of the work prohibitions of Shabbos, plus five more prohibitions that are specific to Yom Kippur (written here in random order):
- no eating & no drinking,
- no leather shoes,
- no anointing oneself with lotions or perfumes,
- no marital relations
- no washing for pleasure
On Rosh Hashanah, we must follow all prohibitions of a typical Jewish holiday. These are the same prohibitions as Shabbos, with the exception that on Rosh Hashanah and most holidays, we can carry items and perform duties necessary to cook foods in a certain manner, but only if it is needed for that day.
This article is a work in progress. It is meant to give over general information, however, it is not meant to be a complete manual.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur can not possibly be fully described in one article. There are many holy books regarding these holy days.
If you are Jewish and are looking for more information regarding observance of these holy days, I would recommend that you proceed to the following site in your quest for information:
If you are not Jewish, there is no need to observe these holidays. The Jewish people are not missionaries, and do NOT attempt to convert anyone that is not Jewish. According to Jewish tradition, non-Jews are only required to follow the Seven Noahide Laws. All people on Earth are descended from Noah. A righteous Non-Jew that follows the Seven Laws of Noah will earn a good place in Heaven.