Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Succah and Simchat Torah Quick Guide


Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Succah and Simchat Torah Quick Guide


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Tishre Guide 5770 - 2009

By Nachum Mohl

Tishre is the name of the Jewish month in which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succot fall. Although Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish year, and the first day of Tishre is the first day of the year, Tishre is the seventh month in the Jewish year. The first month of the year is Nissan, the month in which Passover comes.

Tishre has more holidays than any other month, as we shall list:

(S'lichot services begin for Askenazim on Saturday night, September 12th. It is traditional to begin the first service right after midnight.)

Rosh Hashanah is the holiday that celebrates the Jewish New Year. It is falls on the first and second days of the month of Tishre. The two-day holiday is the only one that is celebrated both in Israel and in the Diaspora as two days. All other major holidays are celebrated in Israel for only one day and in the Diaspora for two days. Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment for the entire world. All pass before Him and His heavenly court to be judged for the previous year and to receive a decree for the coming year.

This year, 2009, Rosh Hashanah comes on the Shabbat (Saturday) September 19, and Sunday, September 20. Remember the Jewish festivals begin when the sun sets.

Since the first day of Rosh Hashanah comes on the Shabbat this year, and since it is forbidden to blow the Shofar on the Shabbat, the only day to hear the Shofar is on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Many people go for the 'tashlich' ceremony on the afternoon of the first day, but since it is Shabbat, it will be done on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Tashlich is a prayer which if found in the holiday prayer book. It is said near a body of water preferable natural where there are fishes. If it is difficult to walk such a great distance, it can be done in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The third day of Tishre is a fast day. It commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah ben Achikom in the year 3339 after creation (421 BCE). He was the leader of the Jews that remained in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple. He was extremely pious and did not want to believe a report that told that a close friend would assassinate him. His death brought new calamities to the remaining Jews in Israel and culminated with the eventual total expulsion of the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.

On the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a special Haftorah is read in the synagogue. The Hafatorah is a portion from the prophets that is read after each Torah reading. On this Shabbat the Haftorah from Hosea 14 is read beginning with the words "Shuvah Israel" meaning "Return, Oh Israel to G-d…" From the beginning of this Haftorah this Shabbat gets its distinctive name, "Shabbat Shuva". It is customary to engage in extra Torah study and more intensive and sincere prayer.

There are ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur; these are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. During this period it is an auspicious time to repent for sins committed. It is a special time for soul-searching and repentance.

Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Succah and Simchat Torah Quick Guide

On the day before Yom Kippur the Kapport service is performed. Fowl is taken and swung around the head of each individual and then the bird is slaughtered. The custom today is to donate the fowl to a charity. Many people use money instead of fowl and then give the money to charity.

Yom Kippur comes on the tenth of Tishre, this year 2009 it falls on Monday, September 28th. The fast begins on the ninth of Tishre (Sunday evening, Sept. 27th) in the evening just before the sun sets. On the ninth of Tishre we eat easy digestible foods, and drink much liquid so that on the fast day we may pray with out interference from our stomachs. The fast begins just before the sunset and extends to the night after Yom Kippur when three stars become visible. On this day G-d forgives sins that are committed providing we are sincere and truly repentant. Sins committed against our fellow man are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless we have rectified the wrong, such as asking forgiveness from the offended party or restituting money taken wrongly.

The night of Yom Kippur includes the famous 'Kol Nidre' prayer which allows all congregants to pray with those who have sinned, since it is impossible for us as a nation to achieve group forgiveness without inclusion of apparent sinners. The end of Yom Kippur features the special 'Neilah' prayer which is the prayer at the time of the closing of the heavenly gates.

The custom is to be happy and have a festive meal after Yom Kippur and then begin work on the Succah.

Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Succah and Simchat Torah Quick Guide

The fifteenth of Tishre begins the Succot holiday. This year, 2009 it begins on Friday night, October 2nd. The Succah is the booths which we build outside of our houses and cover with leaves, branches or small wooden slats. The Succah is to remind us of the temporary shelters in which our ancestors lived during the forty years that they wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt. It reminds us of the special protection that G-d affords to the Jews even during our times. During the festival of Succot, the four species, the etrog (citron), the lulav (top leave from a palm tree), hadas (myrtle) branches, and willow branches, are taken and blessed. Since the first day of Succah falls on the Shabbat, the four species are not handled on the Shabbat; we begin to take them only on the second day of the festival.

The seventh day of Succot is known as Hoshanah Rabbah. On this day, the world is judged for water and extra prayers are added to the prayer service. A special bunch of five willows (which are dependent of much water) are taken and smacked into the ground. Many have the custom to stay up the entire night of Hoshanah Rabbah studying. Work is permited on this day.

The eighth day of Succot is called Shemini Atzeret. In Israel it is observed for one day, but in the Diaspora it is observed for two days, and the second day is given the distinctive name of Simchat Torah. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah we conclude the yearly reading of the Torah and celebrate the conclusion and beginning of a new cycle of Torah readings with rejoicing with dancing and singing.

Outside of Israel the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah fall on Shabbat and Sunday (for the year 2009).


from the September 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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