Rosh HaShanah Greetings

The Greetings and Vocabulary of Rosh HaShanah

Celebration of Yom Kippur the Jewish Festival

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​Preparing for the High Holidays? This is a quick guide that should help guide you with ease into the High Holiday season, filled with Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, and more. 

The Basics

Rosh HaShanah: This is one of four Jewish new years, and is considered the "big one" for most Jews. Rosh HaShanah, meaning "head of the year," falls in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is around September or October.

High Holy Days or High HolidaysThe Jewish High Holidays comprise Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Teshuvah: Teshuvah means "returning" and is used to refer to repentance. On Rosh HaShanah Jews do teshuvah, which means they repent for their sins.

Rosh Hashanah Practices

Challah: On Rosh HaShanah, Jews often make special round challah symbolizing the continuity of creation. 

Kiddush: Kiddush is the prayer made over wine or grape juice that is recited on the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) and on Jewish holidays.

Machzor: The machzor is a Jewish prayer book used on certain Jewish holidays (Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).

Mitzvah: Mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) are often translated as "good deeds" but the word mitzvah literally means "commandment." There are countless mitzvot on Rosh HaShanah, including hearing the blowing of the shofar.

Pomegranate: It's traditional on Rosh HaShanah to eat pomegranate seeds. Called a rimon in Hebrew, the abundant seeds in the pomegranate symbolize the abundance of the Jewish people

Selichot: Selichot, or s'lichot, are penitential prayers recited in the days leading up to the Jewish High Holidays.

Shofar: A shofar is a Jewish instrument most often made from a ram's horn, though it can also be made from the horn of a sheep or goat. It makes a trumpet-like sound and is traditionally blown on Rosh HaShanah.

Synagogue: A synagogue is a Jewish house of worship. The Yiddish term for synagogue is shul. In Reform circles, synagogues are sometimes called Temples. The High Holidays are a popular time for Jews, both regulars and the unaffiliated, to attend synagogue.

Tashlich: Tashlich means "casting off." In the Rosh Hashanah tashlich ceremony, people symbolically cast their sins into a body of water. Not all communities observe this tradition, however. 

Torah: Torah is the text of the Jewish people, and it contains five books: Genesis (Bereishit), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Ba'midbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim). Sometimes, the word Torah is also used to refer to the whole of the Tanakh, which is an acronym for Torah (Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). On Rosh HaShanah, the Torah readings include Genesis 21:1–34 and Genesis 22:1–24.

Rosh Hashanah Greetings

L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu: The literal Hebrew to English translation is "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year." This traditional Rosh HaShanah greeting wishes others a good year and is often shorted to "Shanah Tovah" (Good Year) or "L'Shanah Tovah."

G'mar Chatimah Tovah: The literal Hebrew to English translation is "May your final sealing (in the Book of Life) be good." This greeting is traditionally used between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Yom Tov: The literal Hebrew to English translation is "Good Day." This phrase is often used in place of the English word "holiday" during the High Holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Some Jews will also use the Yiddish version of the phrase, "Gut Yuntiff," which means "A Good Holiday."

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Pelaia, Ariela. "Rosh HaShanah Greetings." Learn Religions, Aug. 28, 2020, Pelaia, Ariela. (2020, August 28). Rosh HaShanah Greetings. Retrieved from Pelaia, Ariela. "Rosh HaShanah Greetings." Learn Religions. (accessed June 1, 2023).