Honey, apple and pomegranate on wooden table shofar, honey and pomegranate over bokeh background

Beginning at sundown Sept. 6, Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year. It’s an important holiday on the Jewish calendar and is the first of what is called the High Holidays (or High Holy Days), a 10-day period that ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

On Rosh Hashanah, Jews from all over the world celebrate God’s creation of the world. Rosh Hashanah is two days long.

During Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people ask God for forgiveness for the things we’ve done wrong during the past year. We also remind ourselves not to repeat these mistakes in the coming year. In this way, Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to improve ourselves; it’s a holiday that helps us to become better people.

All over the world, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah in different ways. Holiday traditions can be different depending on where you’re from and how your family celebrates.

A special prayer service is held at synagogue. The shofar, a special instrument made from the horn of a kosher animal (usually a ram), is blown during the Rosh Hashanah service.

Tzedakah, or giving charity to people in need, is also part of the holiday. Good deeds are done and charity is given in the hopes that God will seal our names in the Book of Life, which brings the promise of a happy year to come. Sweets are eaten, such as applies dipped in honey.

Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, most solemn of Jewish religious holidays, begins at sundown Sept. 15. This day is meant to expiate our sins and achieve reconciliation with God.

Yom Kippur concludes the 10 days of repentance that began with Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day). The purpose of Yom Kippur is to effect individual and collective purification by the practice of forgiveness of the sins of others and by sincere repentance for one’s own sins against God.

Jewish congregations spend the eve of Yom Kippur and the entire day in prayer and meditation. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Kol Nidre is recited. Kol Nidre is a declaration annulling all vows made during the course of the year insofar as they concern oneself (obligations toward others are excluded).

Friends also ask and accept forgiveness from one another for past offenses on the evening before Yom Kippur, since obtaining forgiveness from one’s fellows signifies God’s forgiveness.

There are three congregations in our area: Chabad of Greater Hilton Head, Temple Oseh Shalom and Congregation Beth Yam. Each celebrates the holidays with their own traditions and schedule. Contact them directly for more information about their services.

L’Shanah Tovah – Happy and sweet new year.

Elaine Lust has lived in the Lowcountry for 30 years, and worships at Temple Oseh Shalom and Chabad of Greater Hilton Head.