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ABC of Rosh Hashanah

ABC of Rosh Hashanah


A handy checklist of everything you need to know for the Rosh Hashanah.

The morning before Rosh HashanahSunday 9September

"Hatarat Nedarim"- Annulment of Vows.

Declaration of annulment of forgotten vows is taking place at the end of the morning service on Sunday 9 September (service starts at 7.45am). One may have said during the year something like “I will never again…” without meaning it, but in Torah terms, it is considered a legal vow, and not keeping it is a very serious offence. In order to approach Rosh Hashanah free from the sin of unfulfilled vows, one has to make a public declaration of annulment of any forgotten vows on the day before.   

Rosh Hashanah evening 9 September  

It is customary to greet others with: "L'shana Tova – Ketivah Ve’chatima Tova." This means: "For a good year – You should be written and sealed in the good Book of Life."

For the Kiddush for Rosh Hashanah follow your Machzor.

Symbolic Foods and good omens on Rosh Hashanah evening 

After making the "Hamotzi" blessing, it is customary to dip the bread into honey instead of salt symbolising our hope for a sweet new year.

After the bread has been eaten we eat apple dipped in honey. This custom performed in 3 stages: 1. Before the first bite make a blessing on the apple; Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam borei p'ri ha'eitz - Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree. 2. Take a bite from the apple dipped in honey. 3. After the first bite say; Y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha Adonai eloheinu vei'lohei avoteinu sh't'chadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tukah- May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors that you renew for us a good and sweet year.

Some people have a custom to eat a pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah evening. The pomegranate is eaten before the apple and the stage 1 of the apple - the blessing Baruch atah Adonai… is recited over the pomegranate before the first bite. After eating a few seeds you say;Y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha Adonai eloheinu vei'lohei avoteinu sh’narbe zechuyot kerimon- May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate." Then you continue to the apple as above from stage 2; you have to skip the stage 1 as you already have made the blessing on the pomegranate.

Some people repeat the ceremony on the second night; some not. Whichever way you go will be right.

There is a consensus of all The Halachic authorities that the most important good omen on Rosh Hashanah is to completely refrain from anger.

Rosh Hashanah day 10 September

Blowing the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah is described in the Torah as “the day of blowing”, thus making blowing the Shofar the most important part of the service. It is important, therefore, to know how to observe this unique commandment.

There are three basic types of blasts for sounding Shofar on Rosh Hashanah: Tekiah, Shevarim, and Teruah:

•           Tekiah blast- tuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

•           Shevarim blast –tuuu-tuuu-tuuu

•           Teruah blast – tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu

Shofar is blown in series of various combinations of the three basic sounds. Each series consists of 30 sounds. These series are performed three times:

  • First time, with a special blessing recited by the Tokea (the person who blows the Shofar) before the Musaf service, when all the 30 sounds are blown in one succession.

  • Second time, in groups of ten sounds each, at various points during the Musaf repetition.

  • Third time, just before the end of the service; this time, again, all the 30 sounds are blown in one succession.

The third series is only a custom and if someone left early and missed this series they still fulfilled the commandment. However, in order to fulfil the commandment properly one has to hear the first series and all the three groups of the second series. In case of great necessity (feeling unwell etc.) one may hear only the first series.   

According to the Torah it is absolutely forbidden to speak before the end of the second series about matters irrelevant to the service, as it constitutes a break in the fulfilment of the mitzvah.


Tashlichmeans to cast off. This custom is performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, by a body of running water, into which one symbolically cast off their sins. The ceremony includes reading the source passage for the practice, the last verses from the prophet Micah (7:19), “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Some additional psalms may be added; take your Machzor as you go to Tashlich and recite the prayers printed in Tashlich section. Surely we do not “get rid of our sins” just by standing there; the purpose of Tashlich is to generate reflection, deep introspection and commitment to change.

If Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat, Tashlich takes place on the second day. If Tashlich was not said on Rosh Hashanah itself, it may be said anytime during the Ten Days of Teshuva.

Second Rosh Hashanah evening and day 10-11 September

No preparations should be made for the second evening and day of Rosh Hashanah until the first day of Rosh Hashanah has terminated on Sunday the 10th of September at 8.11pm! Food may be cooked or heated only after this time.

Yom Tov candles should not be lit until the termination of the first day of Rosh Hashanah at 8.11pm!

Having in mind the laws of Yom Tov, one should remember that the match you use to light the candles for the second day of Rosh Hashanah should not be kindled by rubbing it against the matchbox, but rather by lighting it from a pre-existing flame which was lit before the first day of Rosh Hashanah (a yahrzeit candle or a pilot light). After lighting the candles don’t blow off the match you used to light the candles; put it in an ashtray and let burn itself out.  

The Kiddush on the second night is similar to the Kiddush on the first night.

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a seasonal fruit which we have not yet tasted last year should be present on the table when the candles are kindled and during the Kiddush. Even in our spoiled day and age you may find that, during the last year, you didn’t have yet a chance to try Passion Fruit, Dragon Fruit, Granadilla, Mangosteen, Physalis or Rambutan.

This fruit is eaten following the Kiddush; some eat it before the Hamotzi and some after. Again, before eating the fruit, you should make a blessing; Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam borei p'ri ha'eitz - Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree. If you eat afterwards any other fruits (apple, pomegranate etc.) you don’t repeat the blessing.

Prayers and Shofar on the second day of Rosh Hashanah 11 September

Save for a few little differences, the service on the second day is similar to the service on the first day. The obligation to hear the Shofar on the second day is as important as on the first day; we should fulfil this unique commandment on the second with the same enthusiasm as on the first day.


Rosh Hashanah terminates on Tuesday 8.22 pm. To celebrate its conclusion one has to recite Havdalah – Separation [between the holy and the mundane]. Unlike after Shabbat, we don’t smell fragrances, neither do we light Havdalah candle. The Havdalah is recited over a cup of wine. The order of Havdalah is; Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam borei p'ri hagafen- Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who creates the fruit of the vine. Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam hamav'dil bein kodesh l'chol bein or l'choshech bein Yis'ra'eil la'amim bein yom hash'vi'i l'sheishet y'mei hama'aseh Baruch atah Adonai, hamav'dil bein kodesh l'chol- Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, Who separates between sacred and mundane between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations between the seventh day and the six days of labour; Blessed are You, Lord, who separates between sacred and mundane.


Rabbi and Rebetzin Kupperman, Rabbi and Rebetzin Gilbert and all the Honorary Officers wishing you Shanah Tovah!


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